FILE - Ralph Northam Viginia

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam

(The Center Square) – Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam reflected on his four-year governorship in his last State of the Commonwealth address and wished Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin success after the transition.

“You put your trust in me to lead our great commonwealth as the 73rd governor and I promised to make the best decisions I could for you,” Northam said.

“Every single day of the past four years, my team and I have tried to live up to that trust and every day, I have felt so proud, and grateful for you, Virginia,” he added. “I’ve seen your strength and resilience, your kindness, your generosity. It is you, more than anything else, that makes Virginia the best state, in the best country in the world. It has been the highlight of my life to serve you. As a past governor rightly said, there is truly no higher honor, than to serve as Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. From the bottom of my heart: thank you.”

The governor touted Virginia topping CNBC’s ranking for the best state in business and said it is a reflection of the state’s economic success. During his tenure, he said the state brought in more than $81 billion in economic investment, which is four times any previous administration, and created more than 103,000 jobs. The commonwealth also ranked first for business climate in the Business Facilities magazine and was able to secure large investments including Amazon’s second headquarters, he noted.

In addition to the business climate, Northam said he helped make a better state for workers by supporting a minimum wage hike. The state’s minimum wage was $7.25 per hour when he took office and it was increased to $11 by earlier this year. The legislation that’s already in effect will increase the wage to $12 in 2023 and includes language that could increase it to $15 if approved by the legislature and next governor. Northam also noted the investments in affordable housing and family leave.

Northam highlighted the 10% raise for teachers and the investments in the K-12 system and higher education. He also noted the investments made in early childhood education.

The governor said his COVID-19 mitigation policies and Virginians’ decisions to get vaccinated have also helped the commonwealth get through the pandemic, which he said could not be foreseen. He expressed empathy for families that lost loved ones, but said he is proud of how he handled the pandemic.

“As I leave office, I hope that our Commonwealth will continue doing what we know works: follow the science,” Northam said. “Get vaccinated. Wear masks. Take care of other people, not just ourselves. That is who I know Virginians to be.”

Governors cannot run for consecutive terms in Virginia, which means Northam was term-limited after just four years. During the 2021 elections, Republicans swept the three statewide and flipped control of the House of Delegates. Youngkin defeated former governor and Democratic nominee, Terry McAuliffe 50.6% to 48.6%.

“Next Monday, Gov.-elect Youngkin will speak to you in just the same way,” Northam said. “By then, he will be governor. I wish him the best and I’m confident he will lead this commonwealth well. When he succeeds, Virginia succeeds.”

Republican legislative leaders responded to the governor’s State of the Commonwealth address by saying Virginia’s Republican victory shows that Virginians wanted to move away from the Democratic policies of the last few years.

“During last year’s campaign and in the days since his election, Governor-Elect Youngkin has signaled a change not only in policy, but in perspective and tone, as well,” Sen. Todd Pillion, R-Washington, said. “His emphasis will be on unity, bringing Virginians together by advancing initiatives that will lower your cost of living, create jobs by improving our business climate, and make our streets and neighborhoods safer.”

Del. Tara Durant, R-Stafford, said the Republican majority will push a common-sense and forward-looking agenda, which reflects the concerns expressed by voters. This includes higher education standards, teacher pay and school funding, she said. She Republicans are also introducing legislation to cut taxes and make the streets safer.

The Senate did not have elections in 2021 and Democrats still have a slim majority in that chamber, which means Youngkin will have to work with a divided government after he is sworn in as governor on Jan. 15.

Staff Reporter

Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and West Virginia for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.