By Robert F. McDonnell: My Promises to Northern Virginia
On Wednesday, the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce endorsed my campaign for governor. Having grown up in Fairfax, I consider it a tremendous honor to have the job-creating business owners from my home county place their enthusiastic support behind our campaign to expand the economy and create jobs. They join a long list of business organizations, and business leaders such as Sheila Johnson, who have done so. It is because we are promoting problem-solving solutions to the challenges facing Virginians.
Those challenges are many. Unemployment remains high. Transportation needs go unmet. It is harder for Virginia students to get into our great universities, and more expensive for them when they do. Legislation in Washington creates massive new spending and threatens our pro-business climate, and missed budget projections in Richmond increase uncertainty in state government. As governor, I promise the residents of Northern Virginia that I will devote my time to enacting bold policy solutions to address these challenges and get our economy back on track.
This commitment keeps with the positive, forward-looking campaign that I have been running since we kicked it off at the Annandale fire house in March. In times this serious, we don't have time for the divisive and backward-looking campaign that others are choosing to run. We must look forward to keep Northern Virginia the world-leading region in technology, defense contracting and entrepreneurship that it is.
It starts with getting traffic moving again. I am the only candidate in this race with a specific transportation plan. On July 21, I stood on a parking deck overlooking Interstate 66 in Arlington and outlined my 19-page plan. It consists of 12 separate funding mechanisms that will get long-needed projects underway and provide $1.4 billion annually in new revenue for transportation. We will widen I-66 inside and outside the Beltway, get HOT lanes built on Interstates 95 and 395 and expand Metro to Dulles International Airport. And we will pass legislation to keep a portion of sales tax revenue from Northern Virginia in Northern Virginia for transportation. This region sends a lot to Richmond. It doesn't get enough back.
Raising five children, my wife, Maureen, and I understand the frustration that Northern Virginia parents feel about the difficulties they face in getting their children, with good grades and great SAT scores, into our best universities. We need to increase affordability and accessibility in our higher education system. I will do that by committing the commonwealth to awarding 100,000 more degrees over the next 15 years. We will get more Virginia students into Virginia's colleges and universities.
All of my children have been educated in Virginia's public schools. We have a great public education system. But we can do better. We spend too much on administration and too little where it counts the most: the classroom. As governor I will ensure that we get 65 percent of all education dollars into our classrooms, an increase of $480 million a year. This will mean better textbooks, new technology and higher teacher salaries, and all without a tax increase.
I will also continue the work I did as attorney general to combat gangs, while providing opportunities for our young people so they do not turn to crime in the first place. And I will make Virginia the "Energy Capital of the East Coast," utilizing all of our energy resources, making Virginia a hub for green energy research and bringing good, high-paying jobs to the commonwealth.
Northern Virginia is the prime economic engine of our commonwealth. As governor, I will bring an understanding of the critical importance of this region, combined with the deep personal connections that result from having been raised here. We will finally get traffic moving again, get more Northern Virginia students into our colleges and universities, put more money into Northern Virginia classrooms, and keep taxes and regulations low so Northern Virginians can do what they do best: create jobs, expand our economy and provide new opportunities for Virginians everywhere.
The writer, Virginia's attorney general from 2006 until February, is the Republican nominee for governor.