by Carla Bream
Governor Bob McDonnell, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Speaker of the House William Howell, and Senate Republican Leader Tommy Norment announced the “Smaller Government, Stronger Economy” Joint Republican Legislative Agenda for the 2011 Session of the General Assembly.
The Republicans collectively laid out seven major priorities they are committed to advancing for the people of Virginia in order to spur private sector job creation and make state government smaller and more efficient.
1) Reform, Fiscal Responsibility and Restructuring – Government Reform, Spending Cuts, Hiring Freeze, and Virginia Retirement System Reform Legislation.
2) Opportunity at Work – Job Creation and Economic Development
3) Top Jobs for the 21st Century – Higher Education Reform, Investment and Innovation legislation.
4) Get Virginia Moving – Transportation Funding and Reform Package.
5) Property Rights – Ensuring that individual property rights are protected, maintained and not threatened by government use for non-core services and infrastructure.
6) Repeal Amendment – Constitutional amendment to allow the states to reject a federal law for policy reasons.
7) Virginian’s Right To Work – Ensuring that any union election in Virginia is conducted by secret ballot.
Governor McDonnell remarked, “This is a positive, forward-looking agenda that recognizes the need for a smaller, smarter state government but also commits to job creating efforts in the areas of transportation, economic development and higher-education. While this is an initiative of Republicans in the executive and legislative branches, we ask Democrats, Independents, members of the Tea Party and all Virginians for their support of this positive and innovative agenda. Creating good jobs, getting spending under control, and turning our economy around are objectives all Virginians support.”
He also announced a bold reform plan to ensure the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) remains viable and solvent.
Under this plan, all state employees would be required to contribute 5% to their retirement and the employee contributions will be matched with a 3% pay raise. The reforms will put over $300 million in additional funds into the VRS system in FY 2012 alone and will add $4.2 billion over the next 10 years.
The Governor’s “Top Jobs for the 21st Century – the Governor’s Higher Education Reform and Investment Act” is designed to ensure more affordability and access for Virginia students to Virginia’s colleges and universities, provide financial aid for middle income families, require more year round utilization of college campuses, and provide incentives for schools to create more high demand programs in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli addressed individual property rights and their importance to the people of Virginia, saying, “There are legitimate reasons the government utilizes its power of eminent domain – for the construction of roads, schools, jails and utility easements. However, we have to stand up for families and businesses to prevent government from using this extraordinary power when there is not a legitimate public need. A shopping mall or tourism information center is not a core public need.”
The final component is a legislation and state constitutional amendment guaranteeing that any union election is conducted by secret ballot.
Referring to this critical job protection measure, Senator Thomas Norment said, “Card Check would eliminate the right of all Virginians to decide whether or not they want union representation. From John McCain to George McGovern, leaders from both sides of the political spectrum have expressed opposition to this proposal.