Gov. McDonnell touts accomplishments, acknowledges mistakes

Posted at 12:19 AM, Jan 09, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-09 08:55:20-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - As the new legislative session begins, Governor Robert McDonnell spoke to a joint assembly for the final time.

He offered a look back at what he called collective achievements as well as a personal apology.

It was a bittersweet night Wednesday for the governor as he delivered his final State of the Commonwealth Address.

McDonnell touted his achievements over the past four years, among them an unemployment rate that dropped from 7.4% to 5.4%, honors from Forbes magazine as the best state for business, agricultural exports that jumped to $2.6 billion, and his landmark transportation bill that brings $6 billion in new funding to the state.

"I think we made huge systematic changes and progress in big areas with a lot of help from my friends in the legislature on transportation, on pensions, and major budget changes that produced good fruit,” he said.

On this night his colleagues across the aisle didn't begrudge McDonnell some of his successes.

"Most of them were bipartisan, us coming together and for the common good, and he did accomplish a lot in the past four years,” Del. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, said.

But McDonnell also acknowledged the issue that's put a cloud over the final months of his term: the hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and loans from political donor Jonnie Williams, the founder of Henrico-based Star Scientific, for which McDonnell could face a federal indictment.

Afterwards McDonnell said he supports a proposal in the General Assembly to cap all gifts at $250.

"Changing disclosure and form reporting times, and establishing commissions to give advisory opinions and gifts limits and all sorts of things that certainly from my own experience indicate that it would be prudent for the legislature to look at,” he said.

McDonnell said he has met several times with Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe in what he calls very productive meetings.

McAuliffe takes office Saturday.