And we have proposed $80 million for a new Transit Partnership Fund, which
can help finance urgently-needed projects like additional Metrorail and VRE
railcars, the Virginia Beach BRT Project, and bus purchases around the
In addition, we include $80 million to encourage and promote innovative
road building partnerships with local governments.
At the end of the day, the plan we have proposed wont fix all the
transportation headaches faced by our citizens.
But the Transportation Partnership Act of 2005 is a smart,
innovative way to help Virginians stuck in traffic.
I commend you, Mr. Speaker, and other members of the House for proposing a
similar plan last week. And I look forward to working with both the House
and the Senate on this critical issue.
I also urge your approval of Virginia Works, our exciting new
initiative for economic development in rural and distressed communities.
Virginia Works recognizes what local leaders tell me every day: that we
must supplement time-tested economic development programs with new ideas
and fresh approaches to old problems.
Virginia Works does exactly that. It represents a $21 million investment
in economic development in areas ranging from tourism to advanced
manufacturing. This initiative has identified what Virginians already do
well, and it capitalizes on those strengths.
While we can implement fresh new ideas to spur economic growth in our rural
and distressed communities, the most fundamental building block of economic
growth has never changed.
And it never will.
Educational excellence is not an option in the knowledge-based economy of
the 21st Century. It is an economic imperative. If we truly expect the
next generation to have the same kind of opportunities that weve had, we
have to do better.
Together, we achieved great progress last year. Tax reform contained the
single biggest investment ever made for public education in Virginia - $1.5
billion in new funding for our schools.
Were on track this year for even more progress.
The budget that I have proposed increases general fund support for
education by more than $50 million. We provide full funding for the
Standards of Quality and the state share for a three percent salary
increase for Virginias hard-working teachers.
To boost school construction, I have proposed an additional $20 million for
the Literary Funds interest rate subsidy program. Given current market
conditions, that could provide up to $200 million in school construction
money for the 42 projects now on the Waiting List.
Even more important than what we spend is how we spent it. Thats why we
must sustain the Education for a Lifetime reforms that we launched two
We will expand college course offerings for more high school juniors and
We will continue to strengthen our remedial programs for those at risk of
failing the SOL tests.
We will upgrade mentoring programs for new teachers and deploy more
turnaround specialists to low-performing schools.
I also urge your support for legislation to make permanent the program we
launched two years ago to bring efficiency reviews to Virginias public
In our first three pilot reviews, we found potential annual savings of $2.7
We expanded the program to six new jurisdictions this past September.
Tonight, I am pleased to announce that the results of our latest efficiency
review are in.
Our team went into the Stafford County Public Schools and found $1.7
million in recommended annual savings.
Thats good news for the taxpayers, and even better news for our teachers,
students and school communities!
But our commitment to a quality education cant end at high school.
Just as a high school diploma was essential to achieving the American dream
a generation ago, today and in the future, people will require some form of
education and training after high school - normally, either at a community
college or a four-year institution.
The General Assembly recognizes the value of higher education. The tax
reform bill you approved last year contained $267 million in additional
funding in this area. As a result, Virginia ranked second in the nation
last year in increased spending for higher education.
To sustain our progress, our budget proposes more than $165 million in
increased support for our colleges and universities. Much of this
increased funding will accommodate enrollment growth, increased faculty
salaries, and the maintenance of buildings and equipment on our campuses.
But as with so much of the rest of our agenda, we will insist that reform
and greater accountability accompany more money from Richmond.
Specifically, my budget provides $12.2 million in additional general fund
support to institutions that either increase the number of degrees awarded,
or produce, for example, more nurses to care for our people.
We have also proposed additional resources for cutting edge research and
student financial aid - both at our public and private institutions.
In recognition of the enormous sacrifices made by Americas military
families, my budget continues to provide in-state tuition for children and
spouses of military service members stationed here in the Commonwealth.
My budget also proposes $1.5 million to advance a plan to strengthen
options for higher education in Southside Virginia. And I urge you to
Before leaving the subject of higher education, let me say a word about the
push from some of our colleges and universities for greater independence
These are important proposals and they deserve to be acted on this year.
But if we grant our colleges and universities additional flexibility, we
should require them to meet the states long term needs in student access,
academic performance, assistance to our public schools, and economic
development. Incentives should be part of this approach, but operational
autonomy and increased accountability must go hand in hand.
We cant stay on the right track economically if we fail to provide our
citizens with a decent quality of life. That means adequate health and
social services, a clean environment, and safe communities in which to live
We have proposed building on the smart investment we made in childrens
health insurance by increasing reimbursement rates to keep OBGYNs in