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.”
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Va. State Police release opioid/heroin awareness videos


Virginia State Police officials have released two opioid/heroin awareness videos.

One video – Broken Dreams, details the story of Sheriff Alleghany County Sheriff Kevin W. Hall’s son, Ryan, and his battle with addiction. The video describes Ryan Hall's struggle to overcome addiction and persevere.

The second video, No Second Chance, debuted recently on the Eastern Shore and follows the tragic consequences of a 20-year-old Accomack County woman who died from a heroin overdose in July 2016. > Read more.

Business in brief


To mark the changing of the name of Cadence at the Glen to Verena at the Glen, the independent living rental retirement community in Glen Allen is hosting an open-to-the-public celebration Nov. 16. The Showcase of Homes will feature cuisine from the culinary team, refreshments and live jazz, along with tours of the community. The public will also have the opportunity to meet residents and staff. Verena at the Glen is owned by an affiliate of Chicago-based Green Courte Partners, LLC. With the name change to Verena (Latin for true) the community is bringing an updated wellness philosophy, along with enhanced dining, fitness programs, services and activities. The Showcase of Homes at Verena at the Glen will be held from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The community is located at 10286 Brook Road, Glen Allen. RSVP at http://VerenaAtTheGlen.com/RSVP. > Read more.

GRASP offers Spanish-speaking advisor for financial aid questions


GRASP, a nonprofit, charitable, college-access organization that assists students and families in obtaining funding for post-secondary education, now has a Spanish-speaking advisor available to assist students and families with the financial aid process.

The advisor, Conchy Martinez, is bilingual and is available to assist with outreach to the Latino community. > Read more.

Henrico Schools to host 7 meetings for budget feedback


Henrico Schools will host seven meetings prior to the release of Superintendent Pat Kinlaw's proposed Fiscal Year 2018-19 budget in January to solicit community input about the budget. A short presentation by HCPS budget staff members will be followed by opportunities to comment and ask questions. The school division will develop a budget proposal using feedback from stakeholders. > Read more.

Glen Allen dentist offering low-cost braces to qualified children


Glen Allen-based White Orthodontics will donate more than $300,000 in orthodontic care to children of families who cannot afford the full cost of braces. Dr. Paul White and his team will host an open house Saturday, Nov. 4, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at their office, 5237 Hickory Park Drive in Glen Allen, to meet with interested families.

The effort is part of the national Smiles Change Lives program, which counts some 800 orthodontists nationwide among its ranks. > Read more.

Henrico Business Bulletin Board

December 2017
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The Rink at West Broad Village will open at 3 p.m. and remain open, weather permitting, through Jan. 31. Regular hours are 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. For extended hours and daily updates, visit http://www.facebook.com/TheRinkWBV. Cost is $10 for adults and $8 for children 10 and under; skate rental and skate aid are $5 each. Beer, wine and snacks will be available on Friday and Saturday nights. Special events will also take place throughout the season, as well as lessons. For details, visit http://www.westbroadvillageicerink.com. Full text

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