Governor McDonnell, Lieutenant Governor Bolling, Attorney General Cuccinelli, and House and Senate Republican Leadership Announce Joint Agenda for 2011 Legislative Session

RICHMOND – Governor Bob McDonnell, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Speaker of the House William Howell, and Senate Republican Leader Tommy Norment  announced today the “Smaller Government, Stronger Economy” Joint Republican Legislative Agenda for the 2011 Session of the General Assembly. The Republicans collectively laid out seven major priorities they are committed to advancing for the people of Virginia in order to spur private sector job creation and make state government smaller and more efficient. The “Smaller Government, Stronger Economy” Joint Republican Agenda Includes:

Reform, Fiscal Responsibility and Restructuring – Includes recommendations of the Governor’s Commission on Government Reform, Spending Cuts, Hiring Freeze, and Virginia Retirement System Reform Legislation

Opportunity At Work – The Governor’s Job Creation and Economic Development Package

Top Jobs for the 21st Century – The Governor’s Higher Education Reform, Investment and Innovation Legislation

Get Virginia Moving – The Governor’s Transportation Funding and Reform Package

Property Rights – Ensuring that individual property rights are protected, maintained and not threatened by government use for non-core services and infrastructure

Repeal Amendment – Constitutional amendment to allow the states to reject a federal law for policy reasons

Virginian’s Right To Work – Ensuring through legislation and a state constitutional amendment that any union election in Virginia is conducted by secret ballot 

Speaking about the “Smaller Government, Stronger Economy” Joint Republican Agenda, Governor McDonnell remarked, “This is a positive, forward looking agenda that recognizes the need for a smaller, smarter state government but also commits to job creating efforts in the areas of transportation, economic development and higher-education.  While this is an initiative of Republicans in the executive and legislative branches, we ask Democrats, Independents, members of the Tea Party and all Virginians for their support of this positive and innovative agenda. Creating good jobs, getting spending under control, and turning our economy around are objectives all Virginians support. Our ‘Smaller Government, Stronger Economy’ agenda will help ensure the future prosperity of our Commonwealth and our people, and I look forward to its success this session.”

Last winter, Governor McDonnell and the General Assembly closed an historic $4.2 billion shortfall in the current budget by reducing spending to 2006 levels, and not raising taxes. In December, Governor McDonnell proposed $191 million in additional cuts, savings and reappropriations to priority areas in his amendments to the budget.  The Governor’s budget amendments are focused on prioritizing state dollars to encourage job creation.  Additionally, he announced a bold reform plan to ensure the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) remains viable and solvent.  Under this plan, all state employees would be required to contribute 5% to their retirement and the employee contributions will be matched with a 3% pay raise.  The reforms will put over $300 million in additional funds into the VRS system in FY 2012 alone and will add $4.2 Billion over the next 10 years.

Speaking about the Opportunity At Work legislative component of the “Smaller Government, Stronger Economy” agenda, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling remarked, “Virginia is recognized internationally for the innovation of our technology sector.  We must do everything we can to ensure we are attracting more jobs in this area and supporting our current employers who are making advances in bio-sciences, energy technology, and communications infrastructure.”

The package includes legislation creating the Virginia Research and Technology Investment Program, the Virginia Tourism Grant Fund and approximately $55 million in new grants and incentives for job creation in the Commonwealth.

Another key component of the “Smaller Government, Stronger Economy” agenda is the Governor’s “Top Jobs for the 21st Century – the Governor’s Higher Education Reform and Investment Act” which will ensure more affordability and access for Virginia students to Virginia’s colleges and universities, provide financial aid for middle income families, require more year long utilization of college campuses, and provide incentives for schools to create more high demand programs in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.

The Governor's transportation funding package, Get Virginia Moving, will invest a substantial amount of money for road and transit projects throughout the Commonwealth.  Included in the package are the creation of the Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank through the utilization of $150 million from the recent budget surplus resulting from the Governor's cost-cutting measures in 2010 and $250 million from the Governor’s successful performance audit of the Virginia Department of Transportation, and fully leveraging available federal highway revenues in a timely manner.

Speaking about his transportation funding package, Governor McDonnell commented, “I want to make clear, right now is the best time in modern Virginia history to get new roads and bridges built. First, construction prices have fallen dramatically due to competition and the state of the economy. Second, interest rates are at historic lows for our AAA bond rated state.  Third, our citizens need the good jobs that will come with these projects. Fourth, we need to reduce congestion and build transportation infrastructure today.  We need to get dollars out the door quickly, and road, transit and rail projects underway now. Leveraging our scarce transportation resources to make them go further is smart management.”

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli discussed individual property rights and their importance to the people of Virginia, stating, “There are legitimate reasons the government utilizes its power of eminent domain – for the construction of roads, schools, jails and utility easements,” Cuccinelli said.  “However, we have to stand up for families and businesses to prevent government from using this extraordinary power when there is not a legitimate public need.  A shopping mall or tourism information center is not a core public need.”

Speaker William Howell is a national leader in the effort to establish a “Repeal Amendment” in the U.S. Constitution. 

 “The only way for states to contest a federal law or regulation is to bring a constitutional challenge in federal court or seek an amendment to the Constitution,” Howell said.  “A state repeal power provides a targeted way to reverse particular congressional acts and administrative regulations without relying on federal judges or permanently amending the text of the Constitution to correct a specific abuse.”

The final component of the “Smaller Government, Stronger Economy” Joint Republican Agenda will be legislation and a state constitutional amendment guaranteeing that any union election is conducted by secret ballot.

Virginia’s commitment to remain a strong right-to-work state has been a hallmark for the state’s economic development and job creation efforts throughout Republican and Democratic administrations.  However, with federal regulatory actions threatening to undermine state prerogatives on labor law issues, it is clear that Virginia must take additional steps to protect its employers and their workers.

Speaking about this critical job protection measure, Senator Thomas Norment said, “Card Check would eliminate the right of all Virginians to decide whether or not they want union representation.  From John McCain to George McGovern, leaders from both sides of the political spectrum have expressed opposition to this inherently undemocratic proposal.  Protecting the rights of individuals in the workplace is essential to promoting a vibrant economy with greater opportunities.  We must act now to ensure that Virginians are guaranteed a secret ballot in union elections and that our Right-to-Work laws – and the protections for individual workers they provide – are not weakened.”

The “Smaller Government, Stronger Economy” Joint Republican Agenda will be advanced through legislation, budget initiatives and state constitutional amendments.  Each component of the agenda is designed to reduce the size and scope of government while also prioritizing precious taxpayer resources to the top priority of the McDonnell administration – job creation and economic development.