We ask for your support of our Healthy Virginians initiative, which
is intended to stem the alarming rise of obesity and other preventable
illnesses in our people. Our Healthy Virginians program targets state
employees with new incentives to promote wellness.
It gives renewed emphasis in our schools to a proper diet and physical
fitness. And we will establish new measures in the Medicaid program to
encourage better prenatal care and promote healthier lifestyles.
Healthy Virginians is another smart, low-cost initiative and I urge you to
I also urge your approval of a series of medical malpractice reforms
proposed yesterday by a legislative study committee.
We will continue the difficult work of providing better care to those
elderly and frail Virginians in assisted-living facilities. We have
proposed legislation to increase and strengthen the states oversight of
these facilities. And again, I urge you to join us in this effort.
Last year, tragedy struck Wise County when a boulder dislodged in a mining
operation rolled onto a house and crushed a young child. In response, I am
proposing, along with legislators from Southwest Virginia, legislation that
strengthens safety requirements around coal mines and dramatically
increases penalties for violators.
We also continue to place a high value on our natural and historic
In Virginia, the days when environmental protection is somehow seen as a
barrier to a strong, competitive economy are over.
During the past two years we have committed over $70 million to the water
quality improvement fund, celebrated more than 250,000 acres of voluntary
conservation easements, developed a comprehensive framework for water
supply planning, and proposed bold new water quality and nutrient control
Although we have increased spending on natural resources by 34 percent
since 2002, clearly there is still much that needs to be done.
Nowhere is this more true than with respect to the Chesapeake Bay. While
the state must increase its efforts, we will not meet our goals by 2010
without a greater commitment from the federal government. On Monday, I met
with the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council, which I am pleased to chair.
And I can report tonight that our fellow Chesapeake Bay governors are
determined to press Washington for a greater federal commitment to saving
this national treasure.
To carry out all of these important initiatives, well depend - as we have
for so long - on the best, most dedicated state workforce in America. I
urge you to approve the 3 percent raise that I have proposed for our state
Finally, let me conclude where I began: talking about our men and women in
the Virginia National Guard and our public safety officers.
In Virginia, I am pleased to report that violent crime dropped by more than
5% from 2001 to 2003, the most recent year for which data is available.
And in 2003, we had the lowest rates for property and violent crime in 30
We couldnt achieve any of this progress without our public safety
officers. Recruiting and retaining the best law enforcement officers is
one of our highest shared priorities.
Our budget builds on the progress we made last year by providing the
resources needed for new troopers to combat gangs and to patrol our
highways. We will also establish a new intelligence-gathering facility at
the Virginia Emergency Operations Center.
To continue the fight against illegal drugs, we will propose legislation to
make the illegal distribution of Schedule III and IV drugs a felony, rather
than a misdemeanor as it is now. And we will propose to extend the
Commonwealths prescription monitoring program for drugs like OxyContin
from Southwest Virginia to the entire state.
Our budget also proposes 36 new Commonwealths Attorney positions to help
put criminals where they belong - in jail.
We also include 20 additional forensic specialists, and we have proposed
legislation to create a Forensic Science Advisory Board. Both of these
steps will help to preserve Virginias first-rate crime lab.
Finally, in October of last year, a judge in Fairfax dismissed murder
charges against John Allen Muhammad, one of the snipers who terrorized
Virginians in 2002. The charges were dismissed not because Muhammad was
innocent, but because the judge ruled on a technicality that Muhammad's
right to a speedy trial had been violated. Under current law, prosecutors
had no opportunity to appeal.
While I respect the judge's decision, I do not believe a single judge
should be the final word on such important matters, and I urge you to adopt
legislation giving the Commonwealth a right to appeal such rulings.
As we protect public safety, one of my most important
responsibilities - and honors - is to serve as the Commander-in-Chief of
Virginias National Guard. Throughout its history, the Virginia Guard has
played an indispensable role in responding to national disasters and
supporting our nations regular forces.
But today, the Virginia National Guard is under severe stress. Its
members have been subject to long deployments overseas. Many families have
been left to cope without a breadwinner. And there is little on the
horizon to suggest this will change.
As Chairman of the National Governors Association, I will be
working with my fellow governors during the next year to achieve two
things: first, to ensure that this nation provides the resources necessary
to recruit and retain the strength levels needed in our state guard units,
and second, to ensure that they are always adequately armed and equipped
when they are put in harms way.
They put their lives on the line to keep us safe, and we must give them the
resources they need!
Tonight, I have spoken of the enormous progress that Virginia has
made since we first met here three years ago. By making the right choices
on our budget - and by putting politics aside - we have built the
foundation for a stronger, more prosperous future.
We can and we will achieve even greater progress this session.
The agenda I have outlined tonight is an ambitious one, particularly for a
short session. It will keep Virginias budget balanced. It will
strengthen our schools ... continue our work to reform transportation ...
and create new economic opportunities for the people of this Commonwealth.
But as with everything else weve done, keeping Virginia on the
right track will require us to work together ... to abandon petty politics ...
and to put Virginia first.
Fifty-nine years ago in this very same chamber, Winston Churchill,
one of the greatest leaders in history, spoke of how much can be
accomplished when people put aside their own particular interests for the
broader public good.
Churchill was here in America to advocate for a lasting trans-Atlantic
alliance in the aftermath of World War II. While that issue is certainly
different from the challenges facing us today, his words to that joint
session of the Virginia General Assembly still have enormous relevance. He
"We should stand together....We should stand together in malice to none....in
greed for nothing.... but in defense of those causes which we hold dear. Not
only for our own benefit....but because we believe they mean the honor and
the happiness of long generations of men."
Ladies and Gentlemen: This is our last year together in this
ancient and magnificent Capitol building. The interior of the Capitol will
soon undergo major renovations in preparation for Americas commemoration
of Jamestown 2007, the 400th anniversary of our nations founding.
So as we begin our last session in this building together, let us resolve
to make it one of the best in Virginias history, to honor the ideals on
which this Commonwealth and this nation were founded.
Let us resolve to take Churchills sentiment to heart in our own time, and
in our own circumstances.
Let us resolve to stand together with "malice to none" and "in greed for
nothing" for future generations of Virginians.
Thank you and God bless the Commonwealth of Virginia.