Sunday, February 24, 2013

Bob McDonnell: Pragmatic conservativism produces one of the most successful legacies of any governor

From Governor Bob McDonnell....

Following the conclusion of the 2013 General Assembly session I’m so pleased to be able to report to you that the overwhelming majority of our 2013 legislative agenda passed with strong bipartisan support. 88% of our agenda was approved by the General Assembly. That means over the course of our four General Assembly sessions in office, 87% of our legislation was passed into law. That could never have happened without your support and hard work advocating for our common-sense conservative agenda. And I want to personally thank you for all that you’ve done to make this success possible.

You already know about our transportation legislation. It was an historic moment for Virginia. Republicans and Democrats came together to find common ground, make hard decisions, and finally get the first major transportation funding package passed in 27 years.

National conservative pundit Jennifer Rubin wrote about that victory: “…pragmatic conservatism produced one of the most successful legacies of any governor in recent memory.” I certainly appreciate the kind words.

More than anything I appreciate the fact that Virginians finally have a transportation funding plan that will get them to work and back quicker, save them money that is currently being wasted by sitting in traffic, and help our private-sector job creators to continue to expand and create the good paying jobs our citizens need.

Last year CNBC dropped Virginia to #3 in their rankings of “Best States for Business.” And they specifically and directly cited an ongoing lack of transportation funding as one of the chief reasons. That’s unacceptable. Virginia must have a strong and robust economy where all our residents can find good paying jobs. This bill helps ensure that will remain the case. It was a critical piece of our ongoing work to bring more jobs to Virginia.

But that was just one bill. We had so many others this session, and I wanted to take an opportunity to share some of the other highlights with you.

The game-changing "All Students" K-12 education reform agenda generated numerous successful bills focusing on increasing teacher pay, improving the ability to reward good teachers and increasing accountability for poor performing teachers, establishing the Governor's Center for Excellence in Teaching and the Governor's Academies for Excellent Teaching, bringing Teach for America to the Commonwealth, creating transparent school report cards to provide parents and educators with clear A-F grading measures, reducing red tape for local school divisions, supporting teacher innovation and staffing, guaranteed long-term support for students to achieve key learning milestones in reading and mathematics to strengthen their education, helping students stuck in chronically failing schools by creating a turnaround entity to ensure schools dramatically improve and reach accreditation, providing parents with more public school choice, and continuing to recognize that excellent teaching is key to a great education. This legislation moves us closer to our goal of ensuring that every young person has the opportunity to learn from a great teacher in a great school, regardless of her zip code.

We continued to make major higher education reforms and investment to prepare Virginians for top jobs, boost job-creating research and innovation, make college degrees more affordable for students, and advance our goal (now in statute) of having 100,000 more Virginians earn degrees over the next 15 years, and investing an additional $31 million in higher education, in addition to the $350 million in new money we put into the system over the last 3 years, to make college more affordable and accessible for Virginia students. It has worked, and last year we saw the lowest average yearly increase in college tuition in more than 20 years.

Our Taskforce on School and Campus Safety met with a sense of urgency during the 2013 legislative session to discuss recommendations to improve the security of Virginia’s schools and college campuses. After reviewing the Task Force’s recommendations, we sent down several legislative initiatives that were well received by the General Assembly. The General Assembly passed legislation to create threat assessment teams in schools, require lockdown drills in schools, improve the school safety audit process, and increase the penalty for those who perform “straw purchases” of firearms.

Building on our achievements over the last three years to make government more efficient and effective, we enacted several measures to make government leaner, eliminate red tape and relieve mandates on localities. This session, we passed legislation to merge agencies in order to deliver better services to our citizens and small businesses, eliminate and merge boards and commissions, and cleared the way to repeal even more unnecessary regulations.

The Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Workforce Development agenda focused on ensuring Virginia remains the best place in the United States in which to start and run a business. This legislation will make it easier for the private sector to create jobs, and easier for Virginians to get training in the skills necessary for those jobs. By improving the online Business One-Stop system, making the Commonwealth friendlier to entrepreneurs, and making sure that students graduate from our K-12 and college systems career-ready, we will continue to expand jobs and opportunity. Perhaps most importantly, we have a community of entrepreneurial individuals who, in spite of the very real risk of failure, put their energy and sweat and savings into creating opportunities for themselves and others. Virginia is an incubator for good ideas and we have the right tax, regulatory and business climate for entrepreneurs to turn those ideas into job-creating businesses.

While this was the last General Assembly session of our administration, we did not take it easy! Instead we put forward perhaps our boldest and most far-reaching legislative agenda since we came to Richmond. We laid out bold initiatives to lay the foundation for Virginia's future economic growth and spur job creation. We proposed historic legislation to permanently address Virginia's longstanding and long-neglected transportation funding crisis, enhance K-12 education by ensuring that every student receives a world-class education regardless of zip code or socioeconomic status, and place the Commonwealth on sound financial footing. We continued to reduce our unemployment rate, now the 2nd lowest east of the Mississippi, and the lowest in Virginia in the last four years.

Our aggressive agenda enjoyed bi-partisan support in the General Assembly, and garnered support from business groups, industry leaders, teachers, educators and citizens all across Virginia. We have demonstrated our continued focus on the issues that impact every Virginian. We got results. We passed policies that help the private-sector create good-paying jobs, increase Virginians access to higher education, further improve our high-quality K-12 education, build a transportation system that serves its users and saves motorists time and money currently wasted sitting in traffic, make government smaller and smarter, help our veterans here at home, and ensure our citizens are safe and secure. You played a key and crucial role in making all this happen. Thank you, again, so much for all that you do for Virginia. Together, we are building a true “Commonwealth of Opportunity.”


Bob McDonnell
Governor of Virginia

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