First 100 Days
Good morning and thank you all for joining me today. I am pleased to be here with my wife Dorothy, members of my cabinet, agency heads, and my staff – all who have worked tirelessly on behalf of the citizens of the Commonwealth.
Having the privilege to serve as the 72nd governor of Virginia is the highest honor of my life.
Since my first day in office, I, along with members of my administration, have worked hard to find mainstream, common-sense solutions to problems and create a stronger and more economically competitive Commonwealth.
From the beginning, I have told every member of cabinet and staff: Think big, be brave, and take risks. It is the only way we are going to create meaningful change.
And now, 101 days into my term, I am proud of the accomplishments that we have made. Together we are building a 21st century economy, promoting innovation, and creating a healthy Virginia.
To this end, I signed Executive Order 1 on my very first day in office. This historic order prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This action signals to the entire globe that Virginia is open for business.
On my first day in office, we also moved to restore trust in government. As I said during my campaign, I imposed a $100 gift ban on myself, my family, and members of my administration and their families.
These orders set the tone for an administration committed to serving all Virginia’s people.
I also committed when I came into office that we would be smart stewards of Virginia’s transportation dollars.
Over the past 100 days, we have already made significant progress by investing our new transportation dollars wisely and improving the Commonwealth’s transportation infrastructure.
In Hampton Roads, one of my first actions in office was to follow through on my commitment to lowering the downtown/midtown tunnel tolls. We cut them in half, to alleviate the burden on Hampton Roads residents, commuters, and businesses.
We eliminated the EZ Pass maintenance fee for the entire state.
We suspended work on Route 460, because I do not believe we should be spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a road where we don’t have permits to ensure its completion.
We committed significant resources to support extension of the Tide, a goal which I’ve talked about for the last five years.
And we made substantive changes to the Virginia Port Authority Board, because in order to meet my goal to make Virginia the East Coast Capital for Agricultural exports, we need a strong Port to support economic growth.
These are all tremendous accomplishments, but what is a real game changer for the region is what we did with the creation of the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission.
Now, the local community and legislators in Hampton Roads will be the decision makers on what transportation investments will move forward in the region and have the opportunity to inject up to $8 billion of transportation dollars into the region.
In Northern Virginia, I made the commitment that by the end of my administration we will have new lanes under construction on 66 outside the beltway.
I worked with the Governor of Maryland and the Mayor of DC to invest $75 million in our regional metro system – taking cars off the roads and relieving congestion.
And I was also proud to sign the hybrid tax repeal into law.
Transportation is a vital component of economic development in every part of the state. We need to be hearing from local governments about what infrastructure they need to grow. That’s why I directed Secretary Layne to open satellite offices throughout the state where top-level members of my administration can hear directly from the people they serve.
All of these transportation efforts have the ultimate goal of growing Virginia’s economy and making us more competitive.
As governor, my top priority is ensuring that Virginia has a strong and robust economy and remains a hub for job creation and growth.
I am proud to report that over the last 100 days we have created nearly 5,000 jobs. Our unemployment rate has continued to decline, and today we have some of the lowest unemployment rates in Virginia since 2008.
Just this past Thursday, we announced that the State Department has designated Nottoway County as the location for the Foreign Affairs Security Training Center. This project along will create as many as 500 local jobs and bring millions in federal investment here to help Virginia’s economy grow.
But my administration’s focus was not directed solely at job creation along the I-95 Corridor. We made significant steps forward in creating jobs in some of the most economically hit-hard communities of the Commonwealth.
I was proud that one of my first jobs announcement was that we brought a major aerospace manufacturing company to Martinsville—a community whose unemployment rate reached over 22% during the worst of the recession.
And my first introduced bill in the legislature, patroned by Senator Phil Puckett, ensures that the City of Bristol will be able to complete a major retail center off Interstate 81 in Bristol. This project has the prospect of creating 2,000 jobs for Southwest Virginia.
In order to compete for the jobs of tomorrow, it is essential that we make key investments today. My team worked with the General Assembly, and I was proud to sign legislation increasing the amount of Virginia qualified research and development expenses that can be claimed as a tax credit. This legislation is important because it encourages private companies to invest in the jobs of the future.
And as governor, it is not only my responsibility to expand Virginia’s economy into new high-tech industries; it is also my job to support the industries we lead in today.
I worked to ensure that Vireol - a bio energy company – would begin production of ethanol in the City of Hopewell. This company was considering moving their production overseas, but after speaking to leadership at the company about Virginia’s incentive programs and our outstanding business climate, the company committed to production in Virginia rather than shipping their facility overseas. 30 percent of the grain the company uses will come straight from Virginia businesses—a perfect example of how new technology and existing industry can both benefit here in the Commonwealth.
It is these types of initiatives that I mention when I get on the phone every day to talk to representatives from different nations, encouraging them to do business in Virginia.
I have met with Ambassadors from Canada, Japan, Vietnam, and Great Britain. I recently signed a new trade agreement with France and last Sunday hosted the Former Minister of Qatar and his delegation. And just last Friday the Ambassador of Korea held a dinner for me, Secretary Jones, and Secretary Jackson so we could meet with their country’s leading business leaders.
And we have made remarkable progress in the first hundred days in other key areas.
We introduced our own fiscally responsible and sound budget that provides funds for core services while also closing the health care coverage gap.
We passed important standards of learning reform legislation. Every day on the campaign people asked us to fix this - we started doing it. And we named a dynamic new leader Steve Staples as the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
We streamlined our homeland security and public safety secretariats so we can better serve and protect our citizens.
We expanded the Virginia Values Veterans initiative, which encourages employers to recruit, hire, train, and retrain our veterans. Those who serve our country should have access to the resources they need to succeed.
We passed legislation to provide unemployment compensation to military spouses who leave their job to accompany their spouse to a new military assignment in another state, as well as legislation that will expand access to higher education for eligible veterans’ family members.
We launched the Virginia Cyber Security Commission which will put Virginia on track to becoming the national hub for fighting cyber crime, and for attracting the cutting-edge jobs that come with this rapidly growing industry. And, continuing in the spirit of both transparency and innovation, we launched Data.Virginia, a new portal that gives Virginians easy access to a trove of public data from across our many agencies.
We convened our regional partners in DC and Maryland to address the issues facing our region, such as metro funding, public safety, and protecting the Chesapeake Bay from pollution. We also convened our first meeting of the Virginia Congressional Delegation in Washington with my cabinet. We are determined to forge closer alliances with our federal partners.
We have committed to re-launching the climate change commission because climate change is real and we owe it to our children and our grandchildren to take responsible steps to address this critical issue.
And we have made unprecedented progress on the restoration of rights to non-violent felons who have served their time. In my first 100 days in office, we have restored the rights of 800 nonviolent felons—more than any other governor has done in their first 100 days in the history of the Commonwealth. We need to put these folks on a path where they are positively contributing to society by working, paying their taxes, and voting.
We have also made important accomplishments that will help make Virginians healthier.
I was honored this year to sign into law a comprehensive mental health reform package. There is no doubt – more work needs to be done – but I am confident that this is a step in the right direction.
And my administration recently launched Commonwealth Coordinated Care, a program that will blend and coordinate Medicare and Medicaid benefits for approximately 78,000 eligible Virginians. This innovative program will help make life a little easier for the people affected and will also bring greater efficiencies and cost savings to Virginia’s healthcare delivery system.
This program also demonstrates that Virginia is ready and able to close the healthcare coverage gap.
Over the past few months, I have visited more than 20 hospitals and clinics throughout the state. I have met with dozens of health care providers, patients, and business owners. And I can tell you with certainty: expanding access to care is not only the morally right thing to do; it’s also the fiscally responsible thing to do.
And that is what good government is all about – providing our citizens with the tools and the resources they need to lead healthy, productive, and more prosperous lives.
Whether it’s visiting with patients at the Health Wagon in Wise or talking to small business owners in Hampton Roads, these are the people I’m fighting for every day.
I am proud of the accomplishments that my administration has made, but there is still more work to be done.
And I remain optimistic that we can find common-sense solutions that will allow us to close the health care coverage gap, further reform the SOLs, improve our workforce system, and most importantly diversify our economy and create good jobs for our people.
Virginians expect us to put policy above politics – and I am hopeful we can do that.
Finally, I want to thank our incredibly talented state workforce. Over the past few months, I’ve gotten to meet many of you during my agency visits. I am constantly impressed by your dedication and your service to the Commonwealth. I look forward to working with you over the next four years to create a stronger and more prosperous Virginia.