Governor’s address draws mixed reactions
GOP legislators applauded Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell’s plans to borrow money for road construction and other transportation projects, but Democrats said they’re wary about the state taking on more debt.
Lawmakers were responding to McDonnell’s State of the Commonwealth Address. In his speech Wednesday night, the second-year governor urged the General Assembly to issue bonds to pump $4 billion into roads, bridges and rail projects.
“Let me be emphatic about the fiscal prudence of accelerating these bonds now. Interest rates are at near all-time lows, and bids on construction are coming in at the lowest in the modern era,” McDonnell said during the 50-minute speech.
“Building now will produce another benefit for our commonwealth: Road building means job creation. It is estimated that every $100 million spent on construction generates 3,000 new jobs.”
Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Winchester, praised McDonnell’s proposal, noting that transportation is a big concern especially in Northern Virginia.
“If you cannot move goods and services and people in a community, that destroys your quality of life,” Vogel said. “And more importantly, it’s devastating for commerce.”
Vogel represents Senate District, which includes the city of Winchester, Clarke and Frederick counties, and parts of Fauquier and Loudoun counties.
On Thursday, nine more business groups – including the chambers of commerce for Loudoun County, Greater Reston and the Dulles area – announced their support for McDonnell’s transportation funding proposals. That means 36 organizations have endorsed the plan.
But Democratic Sen. Mark Herring of Leesburg criticized McDonnell’s plan.
“The governor campaigned heavily on transportation. And so far, what we’ve seen has fallen way short of the expectations that he set for us and what our needs are,” Herring said. “He’s laid out a short-term borrowing program which could get a lot of projects done, but it puts off to his successor how to address long-term funding needs.”
Herring represents Senate District 33, which includes parts of Loudoun and Fairfax counties.
In the Democratic Party’s official response to McDonnell’s speech, Delegate Ward Armstrong, D-Martinsville, echoed such comments.
Armstrong, his party’s leader in the House, said Democrats share McDonnell’s goals of more funding for transportation, higher education and job creation. “Where we have serious differences is how to pay for them,” Armstrong said.
In last fall’s elections, he said, voters told government officials to “watch your spending and stop mortgaging our future by spending more money than you are taking in.”
“Virginia Democrats heard you loud and clear,” Armstrong said.
McDonnell said his bond proposal would fund 900 road, rail and transit projects across Virginia. They include a new Midtown Tunnel tube in Norfolk; the extension of HOV/HOT lanes on Interstates 95 and 395 and the widening of I-66 in Northern Virginia; a section of the Coalfields Expressway in Southwest Virginia; and several sections of Route 58 in southern and western Virginia.
“Almost a quarter of Virginia’s major urban roads are congested, workers in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads now have some of the longest commutes in the nation, parents are too often stuck in traffic when they should be spending precious time with their children,” McDonnell said.
Also in his speech, the governor outlined three other priorities for the legislative session that began Wednesday. He called on lawmakers to:
• “Create new job-creating tools and resources to help start, grow, and recruit new businesses.” McDonnell said it is “unacceptable” that more than 280,000 Virginians are unemployed.
• “Make college more affordable and accessible for our students.” He noted that over the past decade, college tuition has doubled in Virginia.
• “Reform state government” by eliminating certain agencies and boards, requiring state employees to contribute toward their retirement plans, enacting a hiring freeze, privatizing state-owned liquor stores and cutting spending for such items as public broadcasting.
Vogel said she believes the governor’s biggest issue is job creation.
“While some of other spending changes or reductions we have to make are sometimes a challenge and not popular, at the end of the day it’s about spending to increase jobs in Virginia,” Vogel said.
“The fact that we’re third in the country in terms of job growth after Texas and Pennsylvania is something we should be proud of.”
Keeping college affordable is related to jobs, Vogel said. Rising tuition “is preventing lots of young people from staying in Virginia, getting their education here and having a good job.”
Herring questioned McDonnell’s commitment to the state’s public colleges and universities.
“I think the governor expressed a concern I hear from a lot of people about higher tuition, but he and the House Republicans have been cutting university funding,” Herring said.
“So I don’t know how he expects the universities to continue to provide quality education without making it up somewhere.”
With a nod to Arbor Day, Citizen seeks photos, descriptions of significant Henrico trees
Citizen Staff Reports 04/28/2015
Do you have a favorite tree in Henrico?
Do you know of a tree with an interesting story?
Do you live near an especially large, old, or otherwise unusual tree – or do you pass by one that has always intrigued you?
Arbor Day 2015 (April 24) was last week, and though the Citizen has published stories about a few special trees over the years (see sidebar) we know that our readers can lead us to more. > Read more.
Henrico's most famous tree, known as the Surrender Tree, still stood for more than a century near the intersection of Osborne Turnpike and New Market Road -- until June 2012.
It was in the shade of that tree on April 3, 1865, that Richmond mayor Joseph Mayo met Major Atherton Stevens and troops from the 4th Massachusetts Cavalry and handed over a note surrendering the city to Federal troops. Evacuation had already begun. > Read more.
The Greater Richmond ARC's annual Ladybug Wine Tasting and Silent Auction on April 11 netted $75,165 to benefit its Infant and Child Development Services (ICDS) program.
About 350 guests sampled fine West Coast wines and craft beer from Midnight Brewery at Richmond Raceway Complex's Torque Club, along with food from local eateries. Carytown Cupcakes provided dessert. > Read more.
A Henrico High School student was one of eight students from Virginia selected as a 2015 student playwright as part of the School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community's 26th annual New Voices for the Theater Festival of New Works, which will be held July 10-11 at VCU.
Elaina Riddell of the Center for the Arts at Henrico HS will join the other students and bring her original one-act play to life on stage at the event. In total, 150 plays were submitted to SPARC. Riddell and the other winners will work closely with New York City-based professional playwright Bruce Ward for the event. > Read more.
In the mood for some spring shopping? Eastern Henrico FISH will hold their semi-annual yard sale this weekend – funds raised assist at-risk families in Eastern Henrico County. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden will hold a spring plant sale which is among the largest in the region with more than 40 vendors selling plants ranging from well-known favorites to rare exotics. Put on your detective hat and find out “whodunnit” at the movie “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” and “The Case of the Dead Flamingo Dancer,” presented by the Henrico Theatre Company May 1-17. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
It’s that time of year – charity races are popping up everywhere! On Saturday, St. Joseph’s Villa will be the site of the sixth annual CASA Superhero Run and the fifth annual Richmond Free to Breathe Run/Walk will be held in Innsbrook. Also in Innsbrook, the 2015 Richmond Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis will take place on Sunday. If you’re more into relaxation than exercise, check out Wine for Cure’s Dogwood Wine Festival or the Troubadours Community Theatre Group’s production of “West Side Story” at the Henrico Theatre. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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CalendarRace 13.1 will sponsor a 5k race, a 10k race and a half-marathon at Richmond International Raceway. The course begins and ends at RIR. The races start at 7 a.m.… Full text