Public Policy / Advocacy
The Dulles Regional Chamber’s priorities
for the 2014 General Assembly session.
The Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce (DRCC) believes Virginia should maintain a high level of financial and personnel resources to continue to enable an aggressive and comprehensive national and international marketing and outreach program that leverages the Commonwealth’s strongest economic assets, including industry sectors where Virginia possesses a clear competitive advantage.
The Dulles Regional Chamber encourages the General Assembly to invest fully in the various business incentive programs to encourage business investment in Virginia. DRCC supports continued funding of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) incentive programs, as well as maintenance of recent investments that have been made to the Governor’s Opportunity Fund, and an emphasis on policies that broaden the eligibility requirements, enabling firms in Northern Virginia that increase local tax revenues to qualify for critical economic development incentives.
The Dulles Regional Chamber also encourages the VEDP to continue its work to develop state incentive programs that focus on company retention and recruitment, and give greater priority within these incentive programs to encourage the creation of higher paying jobs, like those in Northern Virginia.
Investment in and development of increased research and development capabilities in Virginia are also critical to the Commonwealth’s economic development success.
With regard to decision making by local government elected bodies on land use and related matters, DRCC believes that the boards of supervisors in Loudoun and Fairfax counties should be treated the same as all other jurisdictions across the Commonwealth with regard to accepting gifts and contributions, disclosure of those gifts and contributions, and the ability to vote. This is critical to ensure Fairfax and Loudoun counties are not at an unjustified disadvantage relative to their peers and to enable those elected to serve on the Boards to vote on these critical issues. In addition, restrictions with regard to voting when gifts and contributions are received by elected leaders should be no more onerous than those imposed on elected officials who serve at the state level.
As we consider how best to create a 21st century workforce, we must invest and focus on conventional four-year degree programs, as well as highly-technical, specialized workforce training across the board, but with continued emphasis in the science, technology, engineering, math and health – or STEM-H – fields.
The Dulles Regional Chamber also recognizes that we cannot underestimate the importance of a globally competitive K-12 education system to our workforce development. The most important investment Virginia can make is in human capital. The jobs of the future and the ability of our businesses to compete rests in having a well-trained workforce. Beyond the skills and knowledge required of workers, we must be able to recruit the best and the brightest to Virginia and to do that, we need to offer the best schools to families looking to relocate. An excellent school should be a guarantee to every child. We all agree that every child deserves the chance to be college- or career-ready at graduation. Unfortunately, not every child in the Commonwealth is provided such an opportunity. Virginia must confront the inequities in our education system and ensure that all children have a chance for success.
This includes strengthening teaching in our classrooms, holding Virginia’s teachers to the highest standards, offering them regular opportunities to sharpen their skills, and rigorously evaluating and paying our teachers appropriately.
We also must inject greater innovation into education. DRCC supports innovation in our classrooms and school divisions to ensure that our students are prepared at graduation for college or the workforce. Greater use of technology and consideration of charter schools to allow for greater flexibility with curriculum and student population are options that should be considered and utilized more often. We have one of the weakest charter school laws in the country and no real means for holding failing schools accountable. Innovation also occurs through the partnership of our post-secondary and secondary institutions through dual enrollment courses, which allow for college-level coursework for college credit while in high school or through the establishment of college lab schools. These are all initiatives Virginia should be supporting to enable greater innovation in the classroom. DRCC also supports SOL reform to support the goals outlined above.
It is also a critical priority to DRCC that the full cost-of-competing funding for all public school employees in northern Virginia, including support staff be restored. The Cost of Competing Adjustment (COCA) is an additional factor used in the state K-12 funding formula, recognizing the higher salaries required in certain high cost areas of the Commonwealth to attract and retain highly qualified teachers and support staff. Public and private employers alike recognize the need to adjust salaries in northern Virginia to attract and retain high quality employees and to offset substantially higher costs of living. The pay scale for state employees in NOVA is 20-30% higher, while federal pay scales include a 24.22% locality pay scale adjustment for Northern Virginia.
The business community recognizes that restoring the cost of competing adjustment is critical to maintaining the high quality of our school systems and their employees in northern Virginia.
The Dulles Regional Chamber recognizes the importance of and supports all of the colleges and universities, both public and private, which provide high quality undergraduate, graduate and professional education to Northern Virginia’s residents. DRCC supports positioning the Commonwealth’s public and private higher education institutions to play a full role in shaping job creation in a global knowledge-based economy, and calls on the Commonwealth’s elected leaders to reverse a decade of reduction in state funding for higher education that has shifted the burden of funding to students and families. DRCC also supports broadening dual enrollment opportunities and increasing slots for northern Virginia students at Virginia’s institution of higher learning but without limiting acceptance of out-of-state students.
The Dulles Regional Chamber recognizes the importance of the healthcare industry to the economy and the community. For that reason, it supports appropriate federal and state reimbursement levels that allow primary care providers, specialists, and hospitals to care for patients and reduce the displacement of costs to those who are privately insured. DRCC also supports maximum flexibility to encourage business to provide the best health insurance options for employees in the free market system.
Given action taken at the federal level in the healthcare arena, DRCC remains extremely concerned about the impact of federal healthcare reform legislation on the business community and urges careful consideration of the impact of any policy change or development of regulations in this arena. Specifically, we are concerned about the lack of predictability, understanding, and action by special interests related to the Affordable Care Act that places many businesses at a disadvantage.
The Dulles Regional Chamber supports legislation that ensures access to affordable and stable group health insurance for all businesses, including sole proprietors and businesses with few employees. DRCC supports legislation that reduces state burdens and provides tax incentives to help small businesses offset the staggering increases in health insurance costs, including incentives that encourage participation in “consumer-driven” healthcare and wellness plans. Further, DRCC supports initiatives that: improve quality and lower costs; encourage fair regulation of the insurance market; build a robust healthcare insurance marketplace for consumers; expand the use of healthcare IT; create an emphasis on prevention, wellness, and personal responsibility; and promote pay-for-performance.
On the issue of Medicaid, DRCC supports the expansion of Medicaid, concurrent with reform, with both components essential to the outcome.
The Dulles Regional Chamber supports collaborative efforts between healthcare stakeholders, including providers, purchasers, insurers and consumers, to ensure continued innovation, creativity and transformation in the healthcare marketplace. The goals of these efforts should include the following:
- Effective communication and education of the many changes in the healthcare laws and marketplace to create an informed consumer;
- Expansion of healthcare infrastructure (both inpatient and outpatient) to meet community needs;
- Preservation of healthcare options in both the provider and insurance markets that encourage competition to enhance choice and control costs;
- Increase in the supply of well-trained medical personnel;
- Effective management of healthcare costs impacting businesses;
- Promotion of workplace and community wellness initiatives;
- Increased accessibility of healthcare and insurance;
- Enhanced quality, choice, unbiased data transparency, and diminished redundancies and waste in healthcare and
- Appropriate planning for emergency preparedness and public-private partnerships to address pandemic preparedness.
The Dulles Regional Chamber strongly supports efficient spending of the new regional and statewide transportation funding passed during the 2013 session to focus on construction and maintenance that will improve and enable greater safety, congestion relief and economic development. Protecting the funds within the Transportation Trust Fund, encouraging public-private partnership projects, and continuing to identify ways to increase the use of technology and improved efficiencies within our transportation system also remain critical.
The Dulles Regional Chamber strongly opposes to any legislative action that will delay, create unnecessary barriers or otherwise hamper progress to move forward on planning and construction of the critical Bi-County Parkway project. This regional project will provide a major return on investment for Virginia for a number of compelling reasons. Specifically, it will:
- Foster the creation of new jobs and economic development throughout the region.
- Enhance and protect one of the Commonwealth’s most important and vulnerable historic sites – Manassas National Battlefield – by removing Route 234 from the heart of the Battlefield.
- Greatly improve access to Washington Dulles International Airport, one of the major economic drivers in the state.
- Provide much-needed congestion relief for 37,000 daily travelers moving between the eastern and western areas of the Region each day – a number that will swell to 72,000 by 2040 (up 91%).
In addition, completion of this project will have impacts far beyond the immediate region, speeding access to Washington Dulles for communities along the Route 29 Corridor, the Shenandoah Valley, and in the Winchester area. With improved airport access, these areas would be primed to attract high tech additive manufacture and other airport related industries. It will also improve access to Washington Dulles from Richmond, Hampton Roads and other parts of the Commonwealth. It will also improve access to the major urban business centers in the Region.
In sum, the Bi-County Parkway means more jobs for Virginia, preserving our rich history, safer travel for our citizens, fewer environmental impacts and less congestion for our commuters. With the project having been on both counties’ comprehensive plans for approximately the past 20 years, and it having been under study by VDOT since 2001, the time has come to build this critical regional infrastructure project.
FISCAL AND REGULATORY POLICY
The Dulles Regional Chamber strongly supports substantive reform of Virginia’s tax and revenue system to more closely align the source of the Commonwealth’s tax revenues with the spending priorities of state and local government. This should allow for investment in essential infrastructure that is critical to the economic health of the revenue-producing regions in Virginia, including specific support for a rebate of a percentage of the state individual income tax back to the locality from which it was collected to help address this needed investment. Access to more diversified streams of revenue for high growth areas to support the increased costs associated with that growth, such as building new schools and roads, and paying the salaries of teachers and public safety personnel is also critical to DRCC.
The Dulles Regional Chamber urges lawmakers to support business-friendly tax policy that considers policies in other states, to ensure Virginia businesses can remain competitive in national and international markets and to fully consider of the overall economic impact of a business or industry’s presence in Virginia prior to awarding or removing any business sales tax exemption, as well as before considering any other significant change to business tax policy.
To support sound fiscal policy, DRCC supports continued investments in the “Rainy Day” Fund, the FACT Fund and targeted reserve funds as a hedge against the sluggish state economy, as well as federal spending reductions that have a disproportionate impact on the state economy.
The Dulles Regional Chamber is also focused on the following specific issues this session:
- We supports a policy change that will ensure online hotel room aggregators are held to the same regime with regard to tax collection and remittance as other brick and mortar hoteliers providing such services. This is a critical issue that impacts transient occupancy tax collection, remittance and investment, and places “bricks and mortar” entities at an unjustifiable competitive disadvantage with respect to their online counterparts.
- In addition, DRCC strongly supports legislation to require that the state place its share of teacher pension liabilities on its financial statements given local governments have no control over decisions made with regard to the program and it could have a negative impact on their bond ratings to have those liabilities on the financial statements for local governments.
Finally, the Dulles Regional Chamber supports legislative and budgetary initiatives that will sustain and improve Virginia’s pro-business environment and will work to protect its members against initiatives that hamper business growth and success in the Commonwealth.
For Immediate Release - January 2014
Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce
2013 Public Policy Position Paper
The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership is collaboration between the Dulles Regional, Greater Reston and Loudoun County chambers of commerce. The Partnership collectively represents more than 2,800 businesses and 100,000 jobs, providing an unparalleled voice for Northern Virginia’s business community in Richmond at a time when supporting pro-business policy is more critical than ever to our businesses and our economy. The following provides additional details on the Partnership’s focus for the 2013 General Assembly session.
TAXES AND REGULATORY POLICY
The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership supports the substantive reform of Virginia’s tax and revenue system to more closely align the source of the Commonwealth’s tax revenues with the spending priorities of state and local governments. The Partnership believes that all tax policies must be assessed against the potential impact on Virginia’s economic growth and viability, and not based solely on anticipated revenues.
The Partnership believes the state must invest in essential infrastructure that is critical to the economic health of the revenue-producing regions in Virginia in order to enable the success in these regions that benefits the entire Commonwealth. Specifically, the Partnership believes high growth areas, like those in Northern Virginia, should have greater access to the income tax revenue generated by its citizens to support the increased costs associated with that growth, such as building new schools and roads, and paying the salaries of teachers and public safety personnel.
The Partnership supports regulatory policies that emphasize the importance of strong economic growth, while ensuring rules are cost-effective and based on valid scientific and technical data. The Partnership opposes unfunded mandates or policy positions, particularly those that would require Virginia’s businesses and other taxpayers to fund the long-term costs of these mandates.
The Partnership opposes arbitrary efforts to limit or suspend growth and economic development, and opposes excessive and inconsistent regulations placed on business development or expansion. The Partnership supports the periodic review and revision of the processes by which state government permits and regulates business activities. Existing requirements that do not contribute to meaningful improvement of the application or proposal under consideration must be streamlined or eliminated where appropriate. The Partnership also supports efforts to encourage business growth through streamlining government review processes.
ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership supports energy independence through every means available that does not do meaningful damage to the environment. The Partnership supports programs that meet the energy needs of current and future citizens. As such, we encourage the development of new energy sources and expansion of electricity generation and transmission. Renewable energy, as well as increased energy conservation and efficiency, also should be included in the Commonwealth’s energy portfolio. In addition, we seek policies that support technology neutrality.
The Partnership supports initiatives that can reduce energy use while contributing to the environmental goals outlined in the Virginia Energy Plan. Such initiatives include development of new energy sources, alternative energy, green buildings, transit-oriented development, and an increase in energy-related research and development. We also support “green” initiatives throughout our region through use of incentives and market-driven policies that promote voluntary compliance.
The Partnership also supports policies that provide appropriate incentives – including, but not limited, to tax credits, development densities, fast track permitting approval and other measures that are competitive with those offered in surrounding jurisdictions – specifically for businesses that invest in environmentally sustainable building designs and systems.
The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership believes Virginia should invest additional financial and personnel resources to fund a more aggressive and comprehensive national and international marketing program that leverages the Commonwealth’s strongest economic assets, including industry sectors where Virginia possesses a clear competitive advantage.
The Partnership encourages the General Assembly to invest fully in the various business incentive programs to encourage businesses to invest in Virginia. Furthermore, the Partnership supports the continued funding of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) incentive programs, as well as significant increases to the Governor’s Opportunity Fund, and policies that broaden the eligibility requirements enabling those firms that increase local tax revenues to qualify for economic development incentives.
The Partnership encourages the VEDP to develop state incentive programs that focus on company retention and recruitment, and give greater priority within these incentive programs to encourage the creation of higher paying jobs, like those in Northern Virginia.
TOURISM AND BUSINESS TRAVEL
Because of the economic advantages offered by a robust visitor and conference industry, the Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership supports an integrated, well funded approach to marketing Virginia as a visitor destination. We believe the Commonwealth’s destination marketing and funding strategy must place high priority on those activities that generate the most tax revenue, while creating economic opportunities for businesses in the visitor and conference industry.
The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership recognizes the importance of and supports all of the colleges and universities, both public and private, which provide high quality undergraduate, graduate and professional education to Northern Virginia’s residents. The Partnership supports positioning the Commonwealth’s public and private higher education institutions to play a full role in shaping job creation in a global knowledge-based economy, and calls on the Commonwealth’s elected leaders to reverse a decade of reduction in state funding for higher education that has shifted the burden of funding to students and families.
The Partnership believes, however, that any new state investment must be targeted toward specific goals that will provide the best return on investment for every dollar spent, including:
- Awarding 70,000 more high quality degrees to Virginia residents over the next 10 years. Virginia’s economy needs more of its citizens prepared to take jobs in the diverse knowledge-based economy. Increasing the number of degrees awarded by 70,000 would mean that 50% of Virginia’s citizens would have an associate, bachelors or graduate degree.
- Targeting new degrees in high income, high demand job sectors. Virginia’s economy will depend on increasing the number of workers able to take on jobs in high demand fields of technology, engineering, science and math, and in areas experiencing shortages, like healthcare, which is particularly important in Northern Virginia.
- Expanding job-specific training at community colleges. The chambers in the Partnership have long supported Northern Virginia Community College’s (NVCC) efforts in job-specific training and believes this unique resource should be expanded and enhanced via more consistent state funding.
- Increasing public-private collaboration for university-based research. Innovation drives the Northern Virginia economy. Northern Virginia businesses need an expanded way to interact with the area’s higher education institutions to produce and commercialize original research. The Commonwealth remains one of the few states that do not have dedicated funding for technology transfer. University-based research can only be brought to market quickly if the Commonwealth supports it.
- Making colleges affordable for low- and middle-income students and families. Northern Virginia enjoys a diverse citizen base. The Commonwealth and our higher education institutions must do more to encourage a greater number of students to seek education beyond high school. The cost of education should not be a barrier to getting a degree. Financial aid is a key ingredient in this affordability challenge. Without increases in state-funded financial aid, access and affordability remain a problem.
The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership recognizes that housing policy is an essential factor in economic development and supports the following initiatives to address the workforce needs in Northern Virginia:
- Adopt the recommendations of Governor McDonnell’s Housing Policy task force to increase the availability of housing options to meet the needs of a growing regional workforce;
- Use of federal, state and local incentives, such as tax credit programs, to maximize the production of affordable and workforce housing in high-density development and/or transit centers.
Completion of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project to Washington Dulles International Airport and eastern Loudoun County, and securing additional federal, state and private-sector funding to reduce projected toll increase levels associated with the project.
The Dulles Regional Chamber recognizes the importance of the healthcare industry to the economy and the community, and supports federal and state reimbursement levels that do not harm providers or result in a shift of the payment burden to the private sector. The Chamber supports the continued introduction and expansion of healthcare facilities in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties to increase the availability of quality healthcare services for business owners, employees and their families.
The Chamber supports collaborative efforts between healthcare stakeholders, including providers, purchasers, insurers and consumers, to ensure continued innovation and creativity in the private marketplace. The goals of these efforts should include the following:
- Expand healthcare infrastructure (both inpatient and outpatient);
- Manage healthcare costs impacting businesses;
- Increase accessibility of healthcare and insurance;
- Diminish complexity in healthcare;
- Enhance choice and transparency;
- Plan appropriately for emergency preparedness and foster public-private partnerships to address pandemic preparedness
- Expand services offered by safety net healthcare providers so all residents have access to healthcare.
The Chamber specifically supports legislation that ensures access to group health insurance for all businesses, including sole proprietors and businesses with few employees. The Chamber supports legislation that reduces state burdens and provides tax incentives to help small businesses offset the staggering increases in health insurance costs, including incentives that encourage participation in “consumer-driven” healthcare plans. These plans not only can increase the number of catastrophically insured, but also put the individual end-users back in control of economic decisions between themselves and their service providers.
The Chamber opposes any legislation that threatens consumer access to healthcare coverage or contributes to increased health insurance costs for employers and their employees. In our community, the Chamber supports exploration of opportunities to provide affordable healthcare to members of the business community, including those without health insurance other health-related service providers and/or clinics that the market will bear.
For Immediate Release - January 2013