By R. Creigh Deeds
Sunday, September 27, 2009
My entire career has been focused on one primary goal: creating opportunity in all corners of Virginia.
In Northern Virginia -- and around our commonwealth -- that means investing in our public schools, supporting business growth and passing a statewide transportation plan that reduces congestion and unblocks the avenues of commerce.
The first job of the next governor is to restore confidence in the economy, and there's no quicker way to create jobs and economic development than with a comprehensive transportation plan. Since Jerry Baliles's 1986 transportation commission, however, all efforts to accomplish this have been unsuccessful.
I will use Baliles's approach, the only one that works: Gather a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers and stakeholders to craft a transportation package that generates new funding but does not raid general funds dedicated to education, health care and public safety to pay for roads. I will sign bipartisan legislation providing dedicated, long-term funding for critically needed infrastructure even if it includes new revenue.
A top priority must be reducing congestion in Northern Virginia. We will do that by improving Metro and mass transit, as well as our road network, including restarting the HOT lanes project for Interstates 95 and 395, improving mobility in the Interstate 66 corridor, upgrading the Fairfax County Parkway, widening Route 28 and addressing traffic issues related to the base realignment and closure process.
My economic plan will provide a tax credit for every job created. Nearly 95 percent of Northern Virginia businesses have fewer than 50 employees, and my plan is the only one that will provide tax credits for these small businesses. I am also the only candidate who will provide tax relief for small businesses. I will make it easier to start a business by streamlining our permitting process and expanding resources for start-up companies.
Because my own college education has been so instrumental to my life, I know we have to make college affordable. The cost of higher education has almost doubled in the past decade, with tuition at community colleges such as Northern Virginia Community College going up 7 percent in the past year.
My education plan includes 70,000 additional degrees being awarded by Virginia colleges, and initiatives to make college more accessible, including increased financial aid. Through my Virginia Forward program, we will provide a 50 percent scholarship for every public college student with at least a high school "B" average who commits to two years of service in Virginia after graduation. We also will provide grants and loan forgiveness to students willing to work or teach in math or science disciplines or high-need areas, such as health care.
New energy technology is the next big business idea, and as governor I will work to put Virginia at the forefront of this emerging sector. My plan will utilize our natural resources and higher education system, including George Mason University and our community colleges, to build a virtual Energy Research Triangle and create jobs through a mandatory renewable-energy portfolio standard.
Families are tightening their belts, and government must do the same. I will ensure that every dollar in our budget is spent for a compelling reason. Today, the budgeting process begins with what an agency previously received and moves to how large an increase or cut is justified. I will make every program start from scratch and defend every dollar requested.
I'll also create a permanent Efficiency Improvement Office, headed by a business leader, to conduct performance reviews of every agency. Texas found an average of $1 billion in annual savings. Virginia can save hundreds of millions of dollars through efficiencies.
Details on these policies are at http://www.DeedsForVirginia.com.
I can't promise that all my proposals will be implemented exactly as I would like. But I can promise that I will work in the tradition of Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and that I will be realistic and honest about the problems we face. As I have throughout my career, I will reach across the aisle and bring people together to create long-term solutions that benefit Northern Virginia and the entire commonwealth and keep Virginia moving forward.
The writer, a Virginia state senator, is the Democratic nominee for governor.