Jobs, education top governor’s agenda

Published 9:35 am Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Editor’s note: The following are excerpts from Gov. Bob McDonnell’s State of the Commonwealth address on Jan. 11, which was also the start of the legislative session in Richmond.

Over these past two years we have shown that while we hail from diverse regions, align with different political parties and subscribe to competing philosophies, we can still come together to make progress on the issues important to our 8 million people.

We serve all Virginians well when we run a wise and frugal government, defend individual rights and the rule of law and care more about enacting good policy than making a good quote.

Over the past two years, that is how we have governed together.

Working across party lines last year we put the most new funding into transportation in a generation, and I want to thank Speaker Bill Howell for his leadership in this effort.

As a result, over $4 billion in new funding was provided in our six-year plan to support highway and rail projects.

This funding has supported hundreds of projects across the state and the advertisement and award of nearly $2 billion in new contracts in 2011.

It has also made possible public-private partnerships including the Midtown/Downtown Tunnel in Hampton Roads, the Coalfields Expressway, Route 58 between Hillsville and Stuart and the Interstate-95 HOV/HOT Lanes Project in Northern Virginia.

We created a path to award 100,000 more degrees in the next 15 years in job creating disciplines. Thanks to leaders in this effort like Dels. Kirk Cox and Rosalyn Dance, and Sen. Tommy Norment, Virginia colleges were able to admit 5,800 additional in-state students last fall.

We’ve created nearly $100 million in new economic development incentives to promote job creation. Acentia, Bechtel, Amazon, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Albany Industries are all coming to Virginia. I want to thank Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, Sen. Chuck Colgan and Del. Terry Kilgore for their leadership in this effort. Over 56,000 more jobs have been created in Virginia since our first full month in office.

Overseas visitors spent a record-breaking $321 million here in 2011, and I was on hand to open trade and agricultural offices in London, Shanghai, New Delhi and Mumbai to sell Virginia products around the world and create more good jobs here at home.

Our trade missions are getting results. Last month alone one ship left Chesapeake and delivered $25 million worth of Virginia soybeans to China. Two weeks ago, another vessel began the same journey, with another 25 million worth of Virginia soybeans.

From Brunswick to Beijing; that’s how we grow our economy in the global marketplace. I want to thank Del. Steve Landes for his leadership in getting new funds to grow our agricultural exports and create more Virginia jobs.

Working together we eliminated $6 billion in budget shortfalls not by raising taxes, but by reforming government and reducing spending.

We turned two massive budget shortfalls into nearly $1 billion in surpluses.

These are collective, bipartisan accomplishments. Virginia is charting a fiscally responsible course to a brighter future.

But this is no time for victory laps.

Now, I can’t ask you to fix every problem in the short time we have together this session. … but I can ask you to fix some big ones.

We must do more now to spur private-sector job creation.

We must reform our pension system now, so that it will be there for the hundreds of thousands of Virginians depending on it.

We must make our K-12 education system more accountable and innovative now, so all our students get a world-class education.

We must complete higher education reform and reinvestment now, so that more Virginia students can access and afford college.

We must improve our transportation maintenance system now, so that our citizens can get to their jobs and families without delay.

Our work starts with finding work for the 260,000 Virginians who are unemployed. This session, I am asking you to put $38 million more into targeted programs that spur job creation.

I have proposed state incentives and initiatives for tourism, film, agricultural and forestry products, technology, modeling and simulation, cyber security, international marketing, workforce development, advanced manufacturing and life sciences. These are proven job and revenue generators.

I am also proposing a new investor tax credit to provide working capital to small businesses that create 70 percent of the new jobs in America, and the extension of time during which the major business facility job tax credit may be taken.

I have proposed an increase in funding for K-12 education of $438 million over this biennium to strengthen the Virginia Retirement System for teachers and school employees, increase dollars going to the classroom, hire more teachers in science, technology and math, improve financial literacy, and strengthen Virginia’s diploma requirements.

BOB MCDONNELL is Virginia’s governor and can be emailed through his website,