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In his final legislative session, McDonnell advocates big changes in transportation and K-12 education
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"A reasonable use of tolls is a proper way to build transportation infrastructure. We've used it very sparingly in Virginia, overall. It is used widely around the country and around the world," McDonnell said. "I do understand the citizens' concerns. If you have a free road now and you're asked by the state to pay a toll, of course you're going to have a concern. But I'm more concerned about the safety improvements that need to be made on I-95, and at this point I am generally out of options. The General Assembly has not provided the resources that I've asked for and that are needed to properly maintain and construct road infrastructure."
McDonnell has also already announced some K-12 proposals--raising teacher pay by 2 percent but linking it to changes in the teacher probation and evaluation process. McDonnell says he'll also have other education bills on issues like school choice. Transportation and education reform, he said, are his top two priorities for the session.
"I looked at this session and said, 'What are some of the major structural problems facing Virginia that we have not fixed?'" McDonnell said. "We'll have a hundred other bills, but those are the things that I think going forward if we do those right and get those done, that will lay a great foundation for future jobs and future opportunity."
McDonnell can set his agenda for his last session, but current events are bringing other issues to the fore. The recent school shootings in Newtown, Conn., have prompted McDonnell to create task forces to study school safety and mental health. And individual lawmakers are planning to propose changes to the state's gun laws.
McDonnell got widespread attention last week for saying, in a radio interview on WTOP, that the possibility of allowing teachers or school staff to carry guns should be considered.
During The Free Lance-Star interview in his office, he said that he was just answering a question, and that he's not advocating any policy changes at this point.