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In his final legislative session, McDonnell advocates big changes in transportation and K-12 education
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BY CHELYEN DAVIS
RICHMOND--Gov. Bob McDonnell says the only people who question a governor's "legacy" are staff and the press.
But he's heading into his last legislative session as governor, his last chance to make any changes in Virginia that require legislative approval. Sure, he'll write a full two-year budget a year from now, but he'll have to leave it in others' hands--he'll be out of office before it even gets a hearing.
In an interview in his Capitol Square office, McDonnell said he's not worrying about his legacy or his dwindling time in office.
He's using his last session to push through structural changes to two large areas of state government: transportation and K-12 education.
Already, McDonnell has hinted at the transportation package he has yet to unveil--it will generate about $500 million a year in new revenue for roads, he says, and he wants at least $48 million of that to come through pulling some extra revenue from the current sales tax out of the general fund and into transportation. He's not the first governor to push for a fix to the long-standing problem of transportation revenue--former Gov. Tim Kaine tried several times during his term. Like Kaine, McDonnell will have to sway a Republican House that dislikes tax increases, and a divided Senate that doesn't want to shift money to transportation from the general fund.
"I'm hopeful that we'll have a road package that will pass this year. We're out of time, out of excuses," McDonnell said. "The obligations at this point just can't be met, and ultimately it's affecting our ability to create jobs."
While at least one legislator has talked about a transportation proposal that would give the legislature veto power over tolls, McDonnell doesn't sound ready to make a trade on his tolling authority. He has applied for, and received, federal approval to put toll booths on Interstate 95, but the proposal is getting a lot of blow-back from residents around the proposed location in Sussex.