Va. Gov. McAuliffe Takes Stock of First Year in Office, Looks to Bring Jobs to Commonwealth

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe is taking stock of his first year in office.

His successes -- and one big defeat -- have helped shape the agenda for 2015.

Gov. McAuliffe is fond of saying his motto is "sleep when you're dead" and last year, he attacked his new job with enormous energy.

"I always say we got 95 percent of the things I wanted to get done," said McAuliffe of his first year in office during a 30-minute interview from his Patrick Henry Building office in Richmond.

He says his biggest achievement was attracting new private sector businesses to offset the damaging sequestration cuts.

"We have had as you know, the 267 job announcements, $5.6 billion in investment which is double what any governor in the Commonwealth has done in their first year," said McAuliffe.

He said the threat of even deeper sequestration cuts taking effect Oct. 1, 2015 will drive him in his second year.

"That's why I'm working at such a pace to diversify our economy, to bring jobs from around the globe that are not dependent on the federal government," McAuliffe said.

In the failure category, one of McAuliffe's signature campaign promises -- expansion of Medicaid health care coverage to low income Virginians.

Once Republicans took control of General Assembly after Democratic St. Sen. Phil Puckett resigned in June, McAuliffe's last ditch attempt to expand Medicaid was dead.

"[Republicans] were never going to vote for it," he said. "I had to find a pathway myself to get it done. We got very close."

Medicaid expansion won't be a priority in year two, but McAuliffe hasn't given up.

"I'm going to continue to fight for those 400,000 Virginians desperately in need of health care."

Republicans accuse McAuliffe of pushing failed pet projects to score politic points. St. Sen. Mark Obenshain issued a statement after McAuliffe's State of the Commonwealth Address saying:

"Instead of a forward-thinking vision, the Governor presented us with a retread of battles already fought and policies that have proven to be failures ... It didn’t take long for Governor McAuliffe to begin rehashing the past and pushing for the usual pet projects found on every progressive’s wish list: Medicaid expansion, gun control, and more government spending with no meaningful cuts."

McAuliffe's pledge to make Virginia more open to same sex couples may have exceeded expectations as same sex marriage is now reality in the Commonwealth.

"I'm the first southern Governor to perform a gay marriage. My point is, to build a new economy we have to be open and welcoming to everyone," McAuliffe said.

He added he delivered on the campaign pledge to roll back restrictions that would have forced women's health care centers to comply with certain hospital building standards.

"Some things I couldn't do with the legislature so I did them myself. I went to the Board of Health, replaced members of the Board of Health, told them to take politics out of these onerous regulations that have impacted women and guess what? Not one single women's health center closed since I've been governor," McAuliffe said.

In his state of the Commonwealth address Wednesday night and in the interview the following day, there was little doubt about McAuliffe's priority in 2015.

"Job, jobs, jobs," he said.

One of McAuliffe's first executive orders upon inauguration last year was to place a $100 gift cap on his office and his family. Now he wants the General Assembly to do the same with all public officials.

He recognizes the damage done by former Gov. Bob McDonnell's conviction.

"If you look at turnout in midterm election, I think it was 37 percent. Now what does that tell you? I think it tells you voters are disgusted," said McAuliffe.

But the 2015 legislative session opened with another scandal. Newly re-elected Del. Joe Morrissey (I-Henrico) is serving a jail sentence at night, legislating by day. McAuliffe said it's up to the House delegates to decide whether to take action against Morrissey, but he doesn't like the image projected.

"It's not right. I go back to my point, probably most papers in the United States had a story on it. None of this is helpful as I'm out there as chief salesman, chief job creator, trying to convince businesses to move," said McAuliffe.

Monday's deadly Metro accident that killed a Virginia woman has suddenly placed the issue of Metro safety onto McAuliffe's agenda. He said he spoke to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser by phone this week.

The two had an already scheduled transportation summit with Maryland Governor-elect Larry Hogan on Jan. 28. McAuliffe said he has put WMATA officials on notice, and that he wants answers by that meeting.

"We need to know immediately how did this happen? What steps are we taking immediately to make sure this never occurs again?" said McAuliffe. "I want to make sure it's safe. I want answers."

As for settling into the Governor's Mansion, McAuliffe's wife and two of his five children are still at home, living in Northern Virginia until the end of last school year.

Now that they've moved into the mansion, the lawn features a basketball hoop and lacrosse net.

McAuliffe said it was a little tough especially for his teenage daughter to change high schools but Richmond has won the family over.

"Folks here in Richmond could not have been nicer to us," he said. "The southern hospitality has been the finest."

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