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Prepared Remarks of Gov. Mark Warner's State of the Commonwealth

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 Commonwealth.

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 won’t 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 we’ve 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.

We’re 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 Virginia’s hard-working teachers.

To boost school construction, I have proposed an additional $20 million for the Literary Fund’s 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. That’s why we must sustain the Education for a Lifetime reforms that we launched two years ago.

We will expand college course offerings for more high school juniors and seniors.

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 Virginia’s public schools.

In our first three pilot reviews, we found potential annual savings of $2.7 million.

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.

That’s good news for the taxpayers, and even better news for our teachers, students and school communities!

But our commitment to a quality education can’t 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 America’s 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 support it.

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 from Richmond.

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 state’s 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 can’t 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 and work.

We have proposed building on the smart investment we made in children’s health insurance by increasing reimbursement rates to keep OBGYNs in practice.

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