This article about the farewell speech by Timothy M. Kaine (D) at the end of his tenure as Virginia governor incorrectly said that Republicans held a two-seat majority in the state Senate after the swearing-in of David W. Marsden (D-Fairfax). Democrats gained a two-seat majority when Marsden took office.
In farewell, Kaine cites successes and challenges Va. faces
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine took credit for helping the commonwealth weather the worst economy since the Great Depression in his final address to a joint session of the General Assembly on Wednesday, but he acknowledged he leaves office with his state still facing serious challenges.
In his valedictory speech concluding four years in office, Kaine (D) hailed the most significant accomplishments of his term: a ban on smoking in most bars and restaurants; millions of dollars set aside to clean up the Chesapeake Bay; and more than 400,000 acres of open space placed into preservation, an area the size of Virginia's Eastern Shore.
But he also said the state faces major struggles, particularly a gridlocked transportation network and a higher education system suffering from years of state budget cuts.
"No state in America has enjoyed the success that we have seen in recent years," he said. "Now some of our remarkable forward movement in Virginia has been obscured by the very difficult national recession that we've all worked together through since the spring of 2007. But Virginia is well positioned going forward because of our economic, our educational and our political leadership."
Legally barred from seeking a second term, Kaine, 51, steps down Saturday, when Republican Robert F. McDonnell will be sworn in as Virginia's 71st governor. Kaine and his wife, Anne Holton, the daughter of former governor A. Linwood Holton Jr. (R), plan to remain in Richmond, where Kaine will teach college classes and expand his efforts as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
He leaves as Virginia faces a $4.2 billion budget shortfall over the next two years, a daunting problem that will consume lawmakers at the annual legislative session that began Wednesday.
Last month he introduced a two-year state budget proposal that included $2.3 billion of budget cuts, hitting virtually every area of state government. Kaine also proposed raising $1.9 billion in new revenue by increasing the state income tax rate by 1 percent. The idea was declared a non-starter by McDonnell and Republican lawmakers, but removing it will require the legislature to find billions in additional cuts.
Kaine told legislators that Virginia will need additional revenue in future years, particularly to solve its transportation woes.
"Virginia is a state with a very favorable tax burden and we all must do all we can to keep it that way. But no state or nation can maintain its economic edge with a declining infrastructure," he said. "So eventually, we need leadership from this body to find a path toward responsible advances in road investments."
Kaine has spent much of the past four years engaged in a protracted struggle with Republicans in the legislature, who dismissed his speech Wednesday as overly self-congratulatory given Virginia's severe challenges.
"I wish the governor well," said Del. Terry G. Kilgore (R-Scott). "He's a likable person. But we've not been able to accomplish a lot. It was too partisan."
Kilgore blamed Kaine for not working with Republicans in the House of Delegates. "It's a two-way street," he said.