RICHMOND - Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, in his State of the Commonwealth Address Wednesday evening, called for civility from state lawmakers and hit hard on the issue of transportation as he unveiled his 2011 agenda for the General Assembly.
McDonnell started by calling for a moment of silence for the victims of the Arizona shootings last weekend.
“We stand together tonight and make clear that this grand experiment in liberty that we call America shall never be shaken or silenced by the cowardly actions of one person, one group or one nation,” he told legislators, cabinet members and other observers assembled in the House Chamber at the State Capitol.
“As this session commences today let us resolve … to use the precious time God has given us to make life better for all Virginians,” he said. “Let us remember that before we are Republicans and Democrats, we are Virginians and Americans.”
Still, the Republican left no doubt as to his party affiliation.
“I believe that the private sector is strengthened when the public sector is restrained,” he said, later invoking former President Ronald Reagan in discussing what constitutes smart government.
McDonnell also reiterated his major priorities for the 2011 session: economic development, higher education, transportation, and government reform — paying close attention to his plan to infuse $4 billion into the state’s transportation system, in part by leveraging $400 million of state money and issuing about $3 billion in bonds.
The governor took a few swipes at developments across the river in D.C, including the White House’s decision to suspend offshore oil exploration off the coast of Virginia, the federal health care law, and what he called “job-killing schemes” like the cap and trade energy bill.
He also briefly defended his proposal to eliminate state funding for public broadcasting and his recently unveiled plan to privatize the retail side of Virginia’s monopoly on the sale of distilled spirits.
In the Democratic response, House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong, D-Henry, commended the governor’s goals on transportation, higher education, and job creation, but cautioned against deficit spending.
“The governor has a long wish list of expensive items, but no sound plan on how to pay for them,” he said.