Governor McAuliffe’s Communication to the General Assembly at Adjournment
Today Governor Terry McAuliffe communicated the following letter to the members of the Virginia General Assembly as they adjourned their 2015 legislative session:
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY:
I am pleased to write to you at the conclusion of a legislative session that has been marked by substantive bipartisan cooperation and meaningful progress on the priorities that matter most to the families we serve.
When I delivered my State of the Commonwealth message to you at the beginning of this session, I expressed great optimism that we could work together to lay a foundation for a stronger, more diverse Virginia economy. I proposed a series of bills and a budget plan aimed at enhancing our economic infrastructure and expanding opportunity in every corner of the Commonwealth, and I pledged to be a partner as we worked together to turn them into law. Forty-four days later, I am proud of what we have achieved together.
Our most significant accomplishment is the bipartisan, balanced and fiscally sustainable budget that both chambers passed ahead of schedule yesterday. I was honored to work with Chairmen Jones, Stosch, Colgan and Ware to craft a balanced budget that closes our revenue shortfall while enhancing economic development, investing in my Healthy Virginia plan, protecting education and giving state employees a raise. We also included key funding for the First Lady’s initiative to get more students the nutrition they need to succeed in school. This budget sets the appropriate tone and provides the resources we need to build a new Virginia economy in a difficult climate of sequestration cuts and Washington dysfunction that have dampened job growth in our Commonwealth.
In addition to increased investment in economic development initiatives that build on our success in bringing new jobs and investment to our Commonwealth, you passed several key pieces of legislation that will make Virginia even more attractive to job-creating businesses. Senator McDougle and Delegates Filler-Corn and Hugo carried bills to continue to incentivize high tech investment with a capital gains tax subtraction for investors in technology companies. Senator Lucas and Delegate James steered the passage of legislation creating a new financing authority to offer loans to small, women-owned and minority-owned businesses, enabling them to create jobs and economic opportunity all across our Commonwealth. These legislative initiatives will strengthen my ability to attract new jobs and investment to Virginias we work to grow and diversify our economy.
Reforming Virginia’s workforce development system is another key element I have identified for growing and diversifying our economy. Our current fragmented and inefficient system is not making the best use of every dollar Virginians invest to prepare our workforce to compete in a 21st Century economy. During this session, we worked together to increase funding for workforce training, streamline and coordinate a complex network of programs, increase accountability and redouble Virginia’s emphasis on apprenticeships and skill sets in high-demand fields. While we have still have more work to do, our accomplishments this session will significantly enhance our efforts to prepare Virginia workers to do the jobs of today and create the jobs of tomorrow. I want to thank Senators Alexander and Ruff, and Delegates Ward and Byron for working with my team and me to pass these important reforms.
This session also resulted in significant progress for Virginia’s public education system, which is the bedrock of our work to build a new Virginia economy. We were able to avoid further program cuts to K-12 and higher education in the introduced budget, and the General Assembly used increased-revenues to enhance our Commonwealth’s investment in education. My team and I worked with Senators Cosgrove, Locke and Miller, as well as Delegates Farrell and Habeeb to continue reforming and improving the Virginia Standards of Learning to better align them with the needs of our students and our economy. I also want to thank Senator Locke and Delegate Krupicka for their work on my bill to change our accreditation standards to offer support and encouragement for schools that are improving. Virginia’s public education system is one of the best in the nation, and I am proud to have worked alongside you to improve it this session.
As a result of our efforts this session, Virginia children will learn and play in safer and better-regulated day care centers. Senators Hanger, Barker, Favola, Marsden and Wexton, along with Delegates Orrock, Filler-Corn and BaCote worked to pass legislation ensuring that every day care facility that receives a state subsidy properly adheres to state standards aimed at protecting the safety and wellbeing of our children. Their efforts will also require family day homes to maintain a reasonable ratio of adults to children and ensure that the state receives regular information about unlicensed day homes operating within the Commonwealth.
I was pleased to work with Chairman Jones and Delegate Rust to pass two pieces of legislation that will revolutionize our Commonwealth’s approach to transportation funding and planning. We learned the lesson from the disastrous US Route 460 project and strengthened our public-private transportation partnership program (P3) to properly spread risk between the public and private sectors. This is a great step toward restoring Virginians’ confidence that all future projects will be transparent and accountable. We also worked together to pass a bill to change Virginia’s transportation funding formula to send more money to local districts, increase funding for rail projects and make the Commonwealth Transportation Board more independent from political forces. These reforms will build off of the historic funding package of 2013 and last year’s prioritization legislation so that we can get politics out of transportation planning and build the modern infrastructure our new Virginia economy needs.
These past forty-four days have also brought significant progress for Virginia’s veterans and military families. As the home to nearly 800,000 veterans, our Commonwealth should be the most veteran-friendly state in the nation. This session I introduced legislation carried by Senators Lewis, Stosch and Reeves and Delegate Watts to offer incentives through the Virginia Values Veterans (V3) program for companies that hire Virginia veterans. I was pleased to see that program included in the final budget agreement. We also worked together to pass legislation carried by Delegates Mason and Yancey and Senators Stosch, Cosgrove and Dance to make it easier for returning veterans to translate their military training into college credit so they can get the credentials they need to enter the workforce quickly. Together these two important pieces of legislation will increase economic opportunity for Virginia veterans and help our businesses benefit from their unique skills and training as quickly as possible.
I also look forward to signing military child identifier legislation carried by Senators Miller and Reeves and Delegates Mason and Mill, which will ease the transition for military families when they are deployed to a new home here in our Commonwealth.
We worked together on legislation to encourage renewable electricity generation and grow our energy economy. My administration formulated legislation carried by Senator Stuart and Delegates Bulova and Hugo to create the Virginia Solar Energy Authority, which will lay a foundation for our Commonwealth to become a leader in this burgeoning industry. Additionally, provisions in SB 1349 will require the State Corporation Commission to treat solar energy as an investment that is “in the public interest.” This important change will pave the way for an enormous increase in our Commonwealth’s renewable energy footprint and create new opportunity for economic development and job creation in this important industry.
This session brought much-needed reforms to Virginia’s ethics laws. The newly-passed $100 gift cap will reduce conflicts of interest and increase public confidence in state government. That is a significant step forward, but it is my hope that we can continue to work together on key additional reforms, including an ethics commission with meaningful investigative authority, a ban on fundraising in special sessions and meaningful nonpartisan redistricting reform. Virginians have a right to demand that their leaders are putting them ahead of all other financial or personal political considerations, and this session was an important step in that direction.
I am also proud of our work alongside Senator Frank Ruff and Delegate Terry Kilgore to strengthen the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission by improving management and oversight of the fund so that it can continue to create jobs long into the future.
Despite our great progress this year, we did not address several key issues that I hope we can consider in coming sessions. First among them is our continued failure to bring Virginians’ tax dollars home to provide healthcare for 400,000 Virginians. This is our money, and we should bring it home to create jobs and keep our friends and neighbors healthy. It is also my hope that we can continue our discussions about commonsense efforts to keep guns out of dangerous hands so that every Virginian can live and work in a safe community. And we should not stop working together to increase equality of opportunity for Virginia women, and for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
At the beginning of this session, many believed that we were incapable of working together to make life better for the people we serve. As partisan battles rage in Washington, it would have been easy to allow our ideological differences to distract us from the work our fellow Virginians hired us to do. But together we proved the conventional wisdom wrong and as a result, this session will be remembered for the affirmative steps we took together to build a new Virginia economy.
As this session comes to a close, it is my distinct honor to thank each and every one of you, not only for your accomplishments these past 44 days, but also for the genuine spirit of friendship and cooperation that has marked our work this year. It is my pleasure to be your colleague and your Governor, and I look forward to continuing our work together in the years to come.
Governor Terry McAuliffe