Sunday, April 11, 2010

Is Virginia Open for Business?

It has been almost thirty days since the General Assembly Session ended. I have not been posting as much because I have been mostly focused on trying to resusicate my law practice so we can still pay our mortgage, but the latest out of Richmond has me worried.

Economists are predicting 1.6 million new jobs and 700,000 new houses in the D.C. Metropolitan Area in the next 20 years. Are we going to capture these jobs, people, and growth or will we lose it to Maryland and the District?

The news since the end of session has proven to be a serious impediment to Virginia sustaining its image as open for business. Consider what has happened in the last thirty days, plus or minus:
  • The Attorney General sued the Federal Government over healthcare, carbon dioxide, and CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) Standards and while the Governor criticized these policies.
  • The Governor issued a new Executive Order regarding non-discrimination that excluded discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
  • The Governor issued his now-famous proclamation lauding the Confederacy while ignoring slavery because it "wasn't significant enough" to include in the resolution.
  • The Governor issued a new policy making it more difficult for felons who have served their time to restore their voting rights and sat silent while the Fairfax County Electoral Board voted to prohibit the distribution of non-english voter registration forms.
Businesses look at a lot of different factors when trying to decide where to locate. Among other things location is important, adequate public infrastructure, tax policy, the state's workforce and educational infrastructure, the state's culture, and its government.

Virginia sits at the apex of the crescent of the East Coast. We have access to ports, international airports, and the Nation's Capital. In many ways, we are an international gateway.

Northern Virginia is very symbolic of that. We have led this state in economic growth because of job growth. Northern Virginia has the highest paying jobs, access to vibrant culture, and an educational system that is the envy of most other localities in the country, we have two major airports, and some access to mass transit.. The 2000 Census showed the 27% of Fairfax County residents were foreign born.

Northern Virginia did not build this success limiting the employment rights of gays, bashing our largest employer (the federal government), and limiting the voting rights of minorities. We built our local economy by being open to new ideas, forward-thinking in our political policies, and being welcoming to newcomers and entrepreneurs. Economic powerhouses are built on public infrastructure, human capital, and an open culture, not nostaligia, exclusion, and hostility to change.

Our future prosperity is limited by Richmond's outright refusal to invest in Northern Virginia's transportation and education infrastructure. We are billions of dollars behind in where we need to be on roads, Metro, VRE, trolleys, and intercity high speed rail in Northern Virginia alone. Many in Richmond seem to have zero interest in putting any actual money towards this problem. Our schools are increasingly dependent on increasingly limited and depleted sources of revenue due to Richmond's Dillon Rule restrictions.

What is the news out of Richmond these days? Budget cuts to our schools and otherwise deafening silence. The latest out of Richmond leaves me frustrated and concerned about when our needs are going to been addressed.

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