RICHMOND, Va. -- Governor Terry McAuliffe delivered his final State of the Commonwealth Address Wednesday night, asking the republican controlled legislature to work with him to close a $1 billion dollar budget shortfall.
During the governor's speech, he spoke of some of his proudest accomplishments from the past year, one of those being restoring the rights of felons.
“One of the proudest moments of my life came on April 22nd of last year when I stood on the steps of this Capitol and brought Virginia into line with 40 other states that restore the civil rights of people who made mistakes and served their time,” said McAuliffe.
“Tonight I am proud to announce that, thanks to those efforts, we have given more than 127,000 Virginians a second chance at citizenship since I took office,” he added.
McAuliffe also spoke about working together with Republicans to pass background checks to deny guns to domestic abusers.
“The legislation we passed included the first meaningful restrictions on dangerous gun ownership in a generation, and showed the rest of the world that common sense compromise on this issue is possible,” said the governor.
McAuliffe went a step further and called for universal background checks for firearm sales in 2017.
The governor once again issued a call to expand Medicaid, something he has done every year of his term.
“Virginians elected us to solve problems… 400,000 people living without health care is a problem. We should never stop seeking ways to solve it,” he added.
McAuliffe also addressed his plan to fill with the near $1 billion dollar budget shortfall.
“The plan I presented to you addresses the Commonwealth’s revenue shortfall, while protecting core services like education and public safety,” he said.
He went on to talk about wanting a permanent raise for state employees which would include teachers.
“While language in our budget restricted the second raise due to our revenue shortfall, the budget offers Virginia’s teachers, state employees and state-supported local employees a 1.5 percent bonus as a stopgap until our revenue conditions allow for a permanent increase in base pay,” said McAuliffe.
Republican Ed Gillespie responded to McAuliffe’s address saying the governor tried to put a positive spin on “the failed policies of his administration.”
“All you have to do is look at the data to know that in 2015, the last year we’ve got numbers for, our economic growth rate here in the Commonwealth was an anemic two percent and that was the first time in five years it got above one percent,” said Gillespie. “The year before that it was two-tenths of a percent and Virginia was 48th out of 50 states in economic growth. Virginia. That’s infuriating to me as I know it is to you.”
The full transcript of the governor’s speech is available below.