More civility, more results

Published 11:21 am Wednesday, December 4, 2013

by Gov. Bob McDonnell

The nature of any compromise means no one gets everything they want. Instead, a solution is found that represents the best possible path forward. Compromise doesn’t mean capitulation. Good government prefers solutions over sound bites.

Civility means not being as concerned with which political party wins, but rather with which policy ideas actually work. Constant posturing and conflict feed the 24-hour news cycle with the content that fundraisers and much of the media love, but it is far from the effective government our citizens need and deserve.

Research and maxims support the benefits of civility and cooperation in the body politic. Management guru Jim Collins says it is humility that is the defining characteristic of the great manager. Virginian George Washington’s Rules of Civility, penned at age 16, can be summarized as a focus on others rather than oneself. The Golden Rule, requiring the treatment of others as you would like to be treated, has stood the test of time through the centuries.

Yes, we must strongly advocate in the public square for our deeply held principles concerning life, family, taxation, spending and the role of government. Our nation faces many challenges to maintain its greatness and world leadership. We need greater civility in our public discourse, less bias and vitriol in our press, and a greater willingness to stand up for principle while working to get things done.

Effective governing merges a bold vision for greater opportunity with competent, daily measured progress. The “Virginia Way” offers a model for how elected officials can get results and improve the lives of people. It’s long past time the “Virginia Way” crossed the Potomac River.

As the media reports on politics, you likely hear, see or read about a lot of rhetoric and finger-pointing. That has become the “Washington D.C. way”: an acerbic approach to governing that eschews common ground and problem-solving in favor of scoring political points and fomenting division.

The coarsening of political discourse and the hardening of partisan allegiances isn’t just aggravating to watch. It’s generating government inaction and citizen apathy that’s damaging opportunities and the prosperity of our nation. Our Founders fought mightily for their ideas in drafting a Constitution and birthing a nation. Today, we can’t even pass a budget for years. We have an atmosphere that leads to government shutdowns, near debt-limit crises and sequestration.

The good news is there is an alternative means of governing. And it’s found right here in the commonwealth. It’s the “Virginia Way.” It’s a tradition of consistent advocacy of principle combined with civility in the pursuit of doing what’s best for the people. When campaigns are over, it’s time to govern effectively.

In Virginia, we still believe in the quaint notion that to succeed you must turn down the rhetoric, work together to find solutions and get things done. Talk is still cheap; results matter. Whether it is enacting the first major transportation funding plan in nearly 30 years, reforming our higher education system to increase access and affordability, fixing a broken pension system or passing a balanced budget on time, over the past four years we have worked together in Richmond to enact major reforms to improve the quality of life of our people.

Virginia’s unemployment rate has declined from 7.4 percent in February 2010 to 5.8 percent today, the lowest rate in the Southeast. In three and a half years, the private sector has created more than 155,000 net new jobs. State government has posted the largest cumulative four-year surplus in Virginia history, at $2 billion and has more than tripled the Rainy Day Fund, to $1 billion.

Unanimously, we enacted a framework to award 100,000 additional college degrees in the next 15 years and made substantial investments in Virginia’s higher education system. Virginia colleges’ average tuition increases are the lowest in more than a decade.

This year, we also said “no more” to the crippling political debate and partisan and regional differences that eroded our transportation infrastructure and our citizens’ quality of life. I proposed, and the General Assembly passed, a bipartisan solution that resulted in a 54 percent increase in transportation funding, with nearly $6 billion in new funding over the next five years; a plan that will annually sustain 13,000 new jobs. Forty-four Republicans and 43 Democrats voted for the bill; it doesn’t get more bipartisan than that!

BOB MCDONNELL is governor of Virginia.