Wednesday, July 13, 2016

3 Quick Steps to Goose the VA Economy

Potomac Local asked me to comment on Virginia dropping to the 13th "Best State for Business" in CNBC's annual rankings. 

Here's my comments:
Virginia's rank dropped to thirteenth largely due to weakness in the Virginia economy relative to other states.  Our economy is lagging because our largest source of business - The Federal Government - has imposed across-the-board spending cuts via the Sequester.  This economic weakness was predicted two years ago.  There are three quick ways we can ramp up the Virginia economy. 
#1 - Raise The Minimum Wage
There are some small short term steps we can take here at home to fix this.  First, raising the minimum wage would help to stimulate more economic activity by giving millions of Virginians more money to spend - 6 of 12 states ranked higher than Virginia (CO, MN, WA, MI, FL, NE) have higher minimum wages than we do here in Virginia.  
#2 - Expand Medicaid
Second, Virginia needs to expand Medicaid.  Virginia has left $4 billion on the table so far.  Numerous studies predict that Medicaid expansion would create 30,000 jobs in Virginia, about 2,000 jobs in Prince William and Stafford Counties, save Virginia taxpayers $180 million per biennium that could be spent elsewhere, and provide healthcare to 400,000 people including at least 20,000 in Prince William and Stafford Counties..
#3 - Clean Up Coal Ash
Third, cleaning up coal ash would generate at least a billion dollars in new spending right here in Virginia and clean our environment.  If the average coal ash job pays $50,000/year, $1 billion in coal ash remediation spending equates to at least 20,000 new jobs and would cost the average rate payer less than $1 per month.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Weekly Column: Summer Is Here: Time to Visit Your State Parks!

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and The Potomac-Stafford Local in the week of July 4, 2016.
Eighty years ago this month, Virginia created the first state park system in the United States.   With 35 miles of Potomac River frontage in the 36th Senate district, our community is lucky to have access to many natural resources, including our state parks. 
Our state park system has its origins in the Great Depression.  In 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built numerous park and recreational areas throughout the nation, as well as in Virginia. My grandfather grew up in Franklin County, Virginia, a county with no public high school so he had an eighth grade education and when he turned 22 in 1933, no job.
He enrolled in the CCC and was directed to report to the Arlington County “countryside” (yes, countryside).  Every day, he walked through farm fields to construct trails and plant trees on Analostan Island in the Potomac River, which had recently been renamed Teddy Roosevelt Island next to Rosslyn.  The CCC also helped build the George Washington Memorial Parkway.