Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is striking a bipartisan tone at the start of this year's legislative session, as evidenced in last night's State of the Commonwealth address.
"To the members in the majority I say: 'Don't be arrogant. Don't overreach,'" McDonnell said, addressing the gathered members of the General Assembly. "To the members in the minority: 'Don't be angry. Don't obstruct."
Despite the bipartisan tone in the speech, the session is certain to feature conflicts between the parties. Earlier in the day, Republicans claimed control of the Virginia Senate using a tie-breaking vote cast by Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling. Nevertheless, McDonnell called for each party to reach out and forge compromise.
"This session we must remember that while seating charts and committee assignments may have changed, the Virginia Way cannot," McDonnell said.
The governor used the speech to outline a plan for the year that included a laundry list of agenda items including an investment of $38 million in targeted programs for job creation, and repealing the state mandate for school divisions begin their academic years after Labor Day.
Part of the governor's speech recounted what he considers the accomplishments of his administration since taking office in 2010, including investing $4 billion in transportation and $100 million in economic development.
Ultimately, he said, his administration turned two massive budget shortfalls into nearly $1 billion in surpluses.
"These are collective, bipartisan accomplishments," McDonnell said. "Virginia is charting a fiscally responsible course to a brighter future."
In the upcoming session, McDonnell is also calling on legislators to spur private-sector job creation, reform Virginia's pension system, and pass a balanced budget on time. Earlier this week, he also released a plan for significant changes to the state's education system.
"Our people want results, not rhetoric; they want solutions, not sound bites," said McDonnell.
State Senators Donald McEachin and George Barker delivered the Democratic response, calling for both parties to come together to protect funding for public schools, especially money for pre-kindergarten programs for disadvantaged children.