Economic Recovery A Priority For Kaine
Thursday, January 15, 2009
RICHMOND, Jan. 14 -- Gov. Timothy M. Kaine told the General Assembly on Wednesday that he will use his final year in office to cultivate a major expansion in environmentally oriented jobs and try to work through partisan barriers to steer Virginia through severe financial turbulence.
Delivering his State of the Commonwealth Address on the opening day of the 2009 legislative session, Kaine (D) said he has worked hard over the past three years to make the state a better place to start a business, buy a home and raise a child.
But Kaine told lawmakers that navigating "a time of national economic distress" will represent one of the biggest challenges of their political careers.
"I don't have to tell you we are serving in one of the most difficult times in our nation's recent history," Kaine said. "But we must be mindful that our pressures are no greater than those that our citizens are facing every day. . . . It is my hope that the size of the challenge . . . will inspire our best efforts to cooperate in finding the best solutions."
Hours before Kaine delivered his address in the House chamber, Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) outlined the magnitude of the fiscal turmoil that awaits legislators.
Saslaw said he thinks lawmakers will have to close a two-year shortfall of at least $4 billion -- earlier estimates had placed the gap at $2.9 billion. If confirmed when the administration recalculates revenues this month, legislators will have 45 days to find $1 billion in cuts beyond those proposed by Kaine in December.
Efforts to balance the budget will probably be complicated by squabbling between the House, which is controlled by Republicans, and the Senate, which the Democrats control.
Kaine, the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee, sought to rise above the partisanship by focusing his speech on how he plans to navigate the state through the recession.
He vowed to speed up construction of previously approved state projects and said he is working with President-elect Barack Obama to make sure Virginia gets its fair share of the economic stimulus package pending before Congress.
Kaine is also proposing a big effort to lure to the state companies that focus on the manufacture or sale of environmentally friendly products. Beside helping to slow climate change, Kaine said, the state could add thousands of "green jobs."
"The development of new energy sources presents dramatic new opportunities for the commonwealth," Kaine said during his 42-minute speech.
In the GOP response to Kaine's address, Del. David B. Albo (Fairfax) indicated that his party is willing to work with the governor on environmental initiatives.