For Immediate Release: January 27, 2014
Bi-County Partnership Opposes Several
Amendments to Biannual Budget
Click here bicountypartnership.pdf to read a letter to members of the Transportation Subcommittee from the By-County Partnership (representing employers in Loudoun and Prince william counties and the Dulles Region), opposing several amendments to the biannual budget.
For Immediate Release: January 27, 2014
The Dulles Regional Chamber is supporting the following Transportation Bills:
HB 2 et al. - Commonwealth Transportation Board; allocations within highway construction districts.
Provision includes funding allocations for the Northern Virginia highway construction district and the Hampton Roads highway construction district be made by giving priority to the projects expected to provide the greatest congestion reduction relative to the cost of the project.
Study of Potomac River Crossings. Directs VDOT to consider the results of a demand study concerning possible construction of an additional Potomac River crossings between Virginia and Maryland between the American Legion Bridge (I-495) and the Point of Rocks Bridge (U.S. Route 15).
HB 70 - Joint Commission on Transportation Accountability.
Vests the Joint Commission on Transportation Accountability with the power and duty to make performance reviews of state agencies with transportation responsibilities to ensure that funds appropriated to those agencies are being used for their intended purposes and in accord with legislative intent.
HB 237 - Telework Grant Program.
Establishes the Telework Grant Program, to be administered by the Department of Rail and Public Transportation, to administer grants in the amount of $250 for individuals who telework at least 20 hours per week for at least 45 weeks of a calendar year.
HB 426 - I-66 improvements.
Requires the Commonwealth Transportation Board to include in the next update of its Six-Year Improvement Program a project to add at least two non-high-occupancy vehicle lanes in each direction to I-66 inside the Capital Beltway.
HB 1090 - Smart Travel Program; incorporation of new technologies and innovations in transportation.
Requires Secretary of Transportation and Department of Transportation to revise and update the state's Smart Travel Program of 2006 by evaluating and incorporating, where appropriate, new smart road technologies and other innovations in transportation.
The Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce opposes HB 647 Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
This bill places limits and conditions on use of Commonwealth revenues to support Phase II of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project. We oppose this bill because the result would not be to reduce the cost of the Dulles Toll Road, and the legislation, if passed, would be harmful to the continued growth and success of a significant economic engine for our region, Dulles Airport.
SB 150 (Stewart) and HB 375 (O'Quinn) - This legislation would protect Virginia businesses by establishing a standard for Bad Faith Assertion of Patent Infringement to make it far more difficult for threatening demand letters to be sent in bad faith in the Commonwealth.
Northern Virginia strongly opposes any proposal to eliminate Cost of Competing for support positions in FY 2015 and FY 2016; in fact, the factor should be fully funded at 24.61%,
as affirmed by a 2012 JLARC study.
The Dulles Regional Chamber is supporting the following Education Bills:
HB 175 - School boards; annual workforce summit.
Requires each local school board to annually host a workforce summit at which members of the local business community, including representatives from the local Chamber of Commerce or other similar organization, shall provide information on the workforce skills necessary to meet the workforce demands of the local business community and ways in which elementary and secondary education can better foster such skills.
HB 28 - Public institutions of higher education; admission of students domiciled in Virginia.
Provides that the board of visitors or other governing body of each public institution of higher education, except for the Virginia Military Institute, Norfolk State University, and Virginia State University, must establish rules and regulations requiring that by the start of the 2019-2020 academic year at least 75 percent of students admitted and enrolled at the institution are domiciled in Virginia.
HB 324 - Virginia Virtual School; established, report.
Establishes the Board of the Virginia Virtual School as a policy agency in the executive branch of state government for the purpose of governing the online educational programs and services offered to students enrolled in the Virginia Virtual School. The Secretary of Education is responsible for such agency. The 13-member Board is given operational control of the School and assigned powers and duties. The bill requires the School to be open to any school-age person in the Commonwealth and provide an educational program meeting the Standards of Quality for grades kindergarten through 12.
HB 747 - Tuition, in-state; student eligibility, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
In-state tuition; Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Declares a student eligible for in-state tuition if (i) he has attended a public or private high school in the Commonwealth for at least three years; (ii) he has graduated from a public or private high school in the Commonwealth or has received a General Education Development (GED) certificate in the Commonwealth; (iii) he has registered as an entering student or is enrolled in a public institution of higher education in the Commonwealth; (iv) he has provided an I-797 Approval Notice stating that he has been approved for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; and (v) he has submitted evidence that he or, in the case of a dependent student, at least one parent, guardian, or person standing in loco parentis has filed, unless exempted by state law, Virginia income tax returns for at least three years prior to the date of enrollment.
HB 865 - STEAM Summer Learning Center Fund; established.
Creates the STEAM Summer Learning Center Fund to award competitive grants to local school divisions in certain regions to train public high school teachers in STEAM education and project-based learning and to provide teachers with skills to conduct workshops to engage public high school students in hands-on, project-based learning in science, technology, engineering, and applied mathematics, including design-build, manufacturing, and modeling and simulation.
The Dulles Regional Chamber supports the following Economic Development bills.
HB 115 - Enterprise Zone Grant Program; re-designation of certain joint enterprise zones.
Removes the requirement that a locality contiguous to an existing multi-locality, joint enterprise zone must have lost at least 900 jobs in a 12-month period to be eligible to join the joint enterprise zone, and removes the restriction that such existing multi-locality enterprise consist of only two localities.
HB 321 - Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program; created.
Creates the Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program, a pilot program administered by the Secretary of Commerce and Trade to improve outreach by state government to the private sector. The objectives of the program are to (i) strengthen coordination and interaction between state government and the private sector on issues relevant to entrepreneurs and small business concerns and (ii) make state government programs and operations simpler, easier to access, more efficient, and more responsive to the needs of small business concerns and entrepreneurs.
The Dulles Regional Chamber supports the following fiscal and tax reform bills.
HB 375 - Patent infringement; assertions made in bad faith.
Prohibits any person from making in bad faith an assertion, allegation, or claim that a resident of the Commonwealth is infringing a patent. The measure creates a cause of action for damages and an injunction against a person threatening to bring legal action for alleged patent infringement.
HB 687 - Building Revitalization Grant Fund; created.
Establishes the Building Revitalization Grant Fund administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development to award grants of up to $100,000 to businesses that make a capital investment of $1 million in revitalizing or retrofitting existing buildings to serve as a new place of business.
SB 593 - Urban county executive form of government; disclosure in land use proceedings.
Alters disclosure provisions for land use proceedings in counties with the urban county executive form of government (Fairfax County).
HB 94 - Business permits, etc.; assistance and documentation required from localities.
Provides that in any instance in which a person is seeking a business permit, a license, or an application for any similar local government approval from a locality, the locality shall provide documentation and instructions that outline all steps necessary to obtain the permit, license, or approval. The locality shall also specify any further permit, license, or other approval that may be required to complete the original project or business activity and shall disclose the expected time required by the locality for the completion of each step of the process to obtain the permit, license, or other approval.
HB 384 - Local mandates; identification of sources of funding.
Requires the assessment performed by state agencies to include the identification of sources of funding for the mandate
HB 431 - Tax reform, state and local; creates joint legislative subcommittee to perform a two-year study.
Creates a joint legislative subcommittee to perform a two-year study on reforming state and local taxes. The joint subcommittee will assume the tasks of the Joint Subcommittee to Evaluate Tax Preferences, which the bill dissolves.
HB 497 - BPOL; appeal of business license tax classification.
Permits a taxpayer to appeal to the Tax Commissioner or request a written ruling from him with regard to the classification of the business for BPOL tax purposes, regardless of whether the locality has conducted an audit, issued an assessment, or taken any other action.
HB 884 - Virginia Infrastructure Grant Fund; established.
Creates, from such funds as may be appropriated by the General Assembly and any gifts, grants, or donations from public or private sources, the Virginia Infrastructure Grant Fund, to be administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development. The bill requires the Department to establish criteria for making grants from the Fund, including procedures for determining the amount of a grant and the required local match, if any. The Fund is intended to help localities make investments in roads, bridges, smarter electrical grids, upgraded water and sanitation systems, mass transit systems, clean energy and more energy-efficient buildings, and the provision of broadband.
HB 236 - Health benefit plans; renewal and offer of nonconforming plans.
Authorizes any health carrier to offer to renew, or to offer, any health benefit plan that would otherwise be required to be canceled, discontinued, or terminated, or would otherwise not be allowed, because it does not meet the requirements of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The authorizations apply to the extent and under the terms that federal authorities have suspended enforcement of provisions of the federal Act. The measure has an emergency clause.
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.
Virginia General Assembly Current Activity
The Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce is part of the Northern Virginia Partnership, a consortium of three local chambers. Together, we hire a lobbyist each year to represent our members’ issues at General Assembly. The Partnership is the largest business consortium from Northern Virginia weighing in with state legislators.
The Dulles Regional Chamber is proud to be serving the business interests of the Dulles Region through efforts such as our monitoring of state affairs.
MARCH 2013 SESSION - OVERVIEW
At the start of the legislative session, DRCC chose to focus its energies and political capital on a select number of issues that would truly impact its members in significant ways. This approach enabled DRCC to strengthen its impact, which led to positive outcomes across the board. The following provides an overview of the priorities that were identified by DRCC for the 2013 legislative session and the outcomes that were achieved in each area.
- Secure new, sustainable, reliable, long-term regional and statewide transportation funding to meet our critical transportation construction and maintenance needs.
- Secure additional state funding to support completion of the Dulles Corridor Rail Project in order to minimize the impact of increasing tolls for Dulles Toll Road users and ensure that one of the Commonwealth’s major economic development drivers remains affordably accessible.
DRCC worked aggressively throughout the session to support passage of a transportation package that would achieve the top two priorities, maintaining a focus on the outcomes more so than on how to achieve those outcomes. At the conclusion of the session, a bipartisan consensus transportation package was passed by both bodies with strong support from the Governor that addresses the priorities above and accomplishes the following:
- Generates sufficient revenue to address the transportation construction and infrastructure needs at the state level, as well as in the two most congested regions of the Commonwealth;
- Provides a dynamic funding source for transportation that grows with the economy;
- Attempts to tap revenue from sources that have a nexus to transportation system uses, as possible;
- Eliminates the maintenance-construction cross-over challenge;
- Provides a dedicated funding source for Mass Transit and the Intercity Passenger Rail Fund – it is important to note that this includes $300 million in additional state funding that will be dedicated to Phase 2 of the Dulles Rail project; and
- Reflects a compromise on the use of existing General Funds for transportation.
It is also important to note that the Secretary of Transportation is committed to using $87 million of these new funds to redesign the I-66/Route 28 intersection, and widen Route 606 west of Dulles Airport. These are the two largest unfunded projects in the greater Dulles/Loudoun area at this time.
Beyond the transportation funding legislation, DRCC also worked actively to oppose a series of bills that would have harmed Virginia’s Public-Private Transportation Act and discouraged private sector entities from investing in Virginia’s transportation infrastructure. Maintaining P3s as a tool in Virginia is critical, particularly given our significant transportation funding shortfalls. We were very pleased none of these bills advanced this session.
- Maintain support for the vast array of economic investment and policy tools that enable the Commonwealth to attract and retain jobs and employers to Virginia.
- Support making Virginia’s legal system as business-friendly as possible through a series of reform bills that will provide additional economic development tools to attract and retain businesses to Virginia.
Dulles Regional Chamber had a very successful session in the economic development arena, including supporting a package of legislation that will ensure Virginia’s legal system is as business-friendly as possible. To that end, DRCC actively worked in support of a compromise that was forged between the business community and the trial attorneys that achieves the priority above and includes:
- Depositions Used in Admissions and Summary Judgment Motions – For the first time since 1973, depositions will be allowed to form the basis for summary judgment motions in a limited class of cases. In these cases, depositions will now be allowed to knock out meritless punitive damage claims through summary judgment motions, will be allowed to form the basis for Admissions, and will help businesses defend against baseless and frivolous cases.
- Venue Reform – This change will help businesses limit lawsuits in jurisdictions that do not have any meaningful connection to the cause of action. With the proposed change, there must be a ‘practical nexus’ – or meaningful connection – between where the lawsuit is filed and the cause of action.
- Trespassing – Trial lawyers across the country are trying to assert new duties of care against property owners including the misguided theory that landowners should owe a duty of ‘reasonable care’ to a trespasser. Current Virginia law says that property owners owe no duty of care to trespassers except in very limited circumstances. Legislation passed as part of the agreement will freeze current Virginia common and statutory law and preclude any changes to our common law.
- Nonsuit – The compromise on this issue addresses a recent decision that severely damaged the existing nonsuit law. Whenever a plaintiff takes a nonsuit (a procedural motion to end the lawsuit) seven days before the trial or during the trial, the defendant is able to seek expert witness fees. The recent decision said the law only applied to the period seven days before the trial, and not the trial itself. This legislation allows recovery of fees expended during a trial.
All in all, this is a significant step forward for business after many, many years of unsuccessful attempts to make the legal justice system more business friendly and represents a real victory for the business community and the Dulles Regiona Chamber.
In addition, DRCC also supported a series of “Innovation and Entrepreneurship” bills and budget items in the economic development arena that were also successful this session to ensure we not only retain but continue to add “tools” to Virginia’s economic development tool box. This includes:
- Full integration of Virginia’s one-stop system enabling that system to be the first and only stop a business will need to make when establishing a business or accomplishing tasks related to their business.
- Development and funding of a Cybersecurity Accelerator at the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), which has combined its expertise in entrepreneurship and technology to create the nation’s first cybersecurity accelerator, modeled after the highly successful accelerator created in California. Since 2005, Silicon Valley's Y-Combinator Accelerator is credited with creating 449 companies and securing $926 million in private investment for their development. The CIT accelerator will focus exclusively on cybersecurity company creation and will initially produce 10 to 20 new companies per year, bolstering Virginia’s cyber assets and capabilities. The requested $2.5 million for this program was included in the approved budget.
- Funding ($50,000) for the Commonwealth Innovation and Entrepreneurship Measurement System, which will function as a tool to measure areas within the Commonwealth worthy of economic development and institutional focus to advance the Commonwealth Research and Development Strategic Roadmap. This funding was identified in the budget from existing resources.
- While the introduced legislation focused on coordination for small businesses and entrepreneurs failed to pass, language was included in the budget that accomplishes the same purpose – to direct the Department of Business Assistance (DBA); Center for Innovative Technology (CIT); Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC); Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) to develop a marketing campaign to attract and recognize entrepreneurs, small businesses, and emerging industry businesses.
- Similarly, legislation the Partnership supported related to the creation of an Innovation and Entrepreneurship Measurement System failed to pass as well; however, language was included in the budget to authorize the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority/Center for Innovative Technology to create this system as a tool to measure areas within the Commonwealth worthy of economic development and institutional focus to advance the Commonwealth Research and Development Strategic Roadmap.
- Invest in and support conventional four-year degree programs, as well as highly-technical, specialized workforce training with continued emphasis in the science, technology, engineering, math and health – or STEM-H – fields.
- Invest in and support efforts to ensure Virginia has a competitive K-12 education system to enable us to meet the workforce needs of the future through strengthening teaching in the classroom, injecting greater innovation into education, rewarding creativity and success, and ensuring accountability in our education system.
To advance the priorities listed above, DRCC actively supported a series of bills and budget amendments that focused on having excellent teachers, innovation and accountability in the schools, improve public school flexibility and choice, and ensure greater workforce training connectivity with the business community so that the focus is directed where the needs are.
Legislation supported in this arena included: funding to recruit and retain high quality STEM-H teachers; development of strategic compensation grants that can be awarded to teachers who are innovative or otherwise going above and beyond what is expected; connecting teacher performance with contracts; providing intervention for grade 6, 7, and 8 students who need assistance with algebra which is key to success in most STEM-H fields; early intervention reading services for K-3 students; simplifying the current school accountability system to an easy to understand A-F grading system to ensure transparency; increasing the ability for local school systems to request waivers from certain state requirements; staffing flexibility in certain situations for public schools; and legislation to help struggling schools improve.
- Protect employers and their employees from any negative impact federal healthcare reform legislation may create as state-level policy and regulations are developed.
Dulles Regional Chamber's efforts in the healthcare arena focused on expressing support for the extension and reform Medicaid in Virginia. The House and Senate budgets included very different approaches to this, both which were problematic in that they proposed reform prior to acceptance of the resources associated with the extension of Medicaid. Dulles Regional Chamber strongly advocated that reform and extension happen concurrently so that the resources required for the desired reforms are available to enable implementation of them. The outcome included amendments to the state budget, including language directing simultaneous pursuit of Medicaid reform and expansion. Specifically, the compromise includes the following:
- Directs Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel and the Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) to develop a “comprehensive value-driven, market-based reform of the Virginia Medicaid/FAMIS programs” in three phases;
- Authorizes DMAS to pursue the waivers and plans necessary to implement the optional coverage expansion; and
- Establishes the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission (with ten legislative members, five each from the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committee) whose approval would be required to implement the expansion.
Looking forward, DRCC how Medicaid reform and expansion happens and the relative impact on the business community will be critical, but this was seen as a positive compromise on what became one of the most controversial issues considered this session.
MARCH 2011 SESSION - OVERVIEW
In terms of an overview, the Partnership was particularly successful in a number of areas, both on the policy front, and in strengthening the Partnership’s brand as a leading northern Virginia business voice on critical issues impacting the business community. Through our active advocacy communications on the range of bills and budget initiatives we identified as priorities, as well as through the direct outreach from representatives from the chambers in our Partnership during your visits and other communications this session, awareness of the Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership continued to grow significantly during the 2011 session.
From a policy standpoint, the Chamber’s primary successes were in the following areas:
- Advancement of important additional economic development tools focused primarily on supporting emerging technology businesses, those engaged in research and development, and support for Virginia’s wine and tourism industries, as well as more than $40 million in funding for these tools, to support continued growth and development across Virginia;
- The most significant investment in higher education we have seen in Virginia in decades, providing an important step forward to increase the number of undergraduate degrees in Virginia, emphasizing the importance of highly competitive STEM degree programs, and increasing access and affordability for more in-state students interested in attending Virginia’s colleges and universities;
- Passage of the Governor’s “Get Moving Virginia” transportation initiative, which, while it does not address our long-term transportation needs, does create a framework to invest $4 billion over the next three years into road, rail and transit projects throughout Virginia;
- Early phase-out of the accelerated sales tax for 80% of retailers and other dealers across Virginia, which is critical from a cash flow standpoint, particularly for small and mid-sized businesses;
- Passage of a range of tax and regulatory measures that will provide tax relief, improve flexibility, simplify processes, and minimize tax and regulatory burdens for businesses in Virginia;
- Development of a framework to provide a voice for businesses as Virginia proceeds to create a health benefits exchange (as required under Federal healthcare reform legislation); and
- Work to minimize the impact of legislation requiring use of the E-Verify system by Virginia businesses to the extent possible, ensuring that only those larger employers who contract with the state would be subject to these new requirements and delaying the effective date to December 1, 2013.
The following links provide additional details on these and related efforts.
As you are well aware, budget negotiations this session where extremely tenuous, with stark differences between the budgets passed by the House and Senate at the mid-point of the session. While the House budget focused on addressing the structural deficit by dedicating resources to one‐time actions, the Senate budget focused more on providing additional funding for on‐going programs. That being said, the conferees were able to reach a compromise agreement that was approved unanimously by each house, and is now before the Governor for his consideration.
In the areas of Economic Development and Tourism, the budget provides $38.2 million for the “Opportunity at Work” economic development initiatives, including:
- $10.0 million in FY 2012 for research and development pursuant to the provisions of House Bill 2324 (described later in this report); and
- $4.0 million which will be deposited into the CIT Gap Funds and $6.0 million for the Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund, of which $2.0 million will be dedicated to Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants.
The budget includes $10.3 million in FY 2012 to reflect three new tax incentives adopted this session:
- A research and development tax credit capped at $5.0 million (supported by the Dulles Regional Chamber);
- $5.0 million for Virginia Port tax incentives; and
- $250,000 for a vineyard and wineries tax credit (supported by the Dulles Regional Chamber.)
The spending amendments for the “Opportunity at Work” initiative also include the following:
- $5.0 million in FY 2012 to recapitalize the loan programs at the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority (VSBFA);
- $3.0 million for industrial site revitalization through the existing Derelict Structures Fund managed by the Department of Housing and Community Development and $1.0 million for the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund ($2.0 million in GF and $2.0 million from the sale of surplus property);
- $2.5 million in FY 2012 to supplement grant funding available through the Enterprise Zone Program;
- $1.0 million in FY 2012 to expand the Virginia Tourism Authority’s Marketing Grant Program;
- $500,000 in FY 2012 to expand funding for the Motion Picture Opportunity Fund (MPOF); and
- $200,000 to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) to promote regional collaboration
Finally, the budget also includes $3.0 million (in higher education) in funding for non‐credit training classes at community colleges, which the Dulles Regional Chamber supported.
In the area of Higher Education, the final budget includes a net increase of $100.7 million GF for higher education. This includes new seats at high‐demand institutions, funding for the STEM initiative the Dulles Regional Chamber supported, additional research, and funding for operating and maintenance, and enrollment growth to moderate tuition increases.
Specifically, higher education general fund operating increases included the following:
- $16.0 million GF for increased operating costs due to enrollment growth;
- $12.3 million in targeted STEM initiatives;
- $2.6 million GF for 351 more in‐state undergraduate seats at the University of Virginia, College of Mary Washington, James Madison University and Virginia Tech as part of a multi‐year phase‐in of 1,725 new seats;
- $11.5 million to improve the number of full‐time faculty at key colleges and universities;
- $13.6 million for operating costs of new buildings; and
- $13.3 million GF for in‐state undergraduate financial aid.
In the Transportation area, the budget provides $32.7 million from the FY 2010 GF surplus to help capitalize the transportation infrastructure bank (this amount is required under provisions of HB 3202, passed during the 2007 session).
The largest amendment in the transportation area reflects the adjustments to the Commonwealth Transportation Fund forecast update, totaling $104.3 million in FY 2011 and $408.5 million in FY 2012.
The budget conference report reflects the provisions of House Bill 2527 related to the Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank (VTIB) and the Revenue Sharing Program, including $287.7 million as an initial capitalization for this bank which will be used to provide grants to local governmental entities and loans to private entities that have entered into public‐private transportation act agreements. This funding is comprised of $32.7 million from the FY 2010 GF surplus and $250.0 million of the existing VDOT NGF revenues identified in the audit completed this fall. The budget also reflects the increase in the revenue sharing program from a maximum of $50 million per year to $200 million each year.
The amendments retain the Governor’s proposed FY 2012 spending priorities within VDOT, including:
- Dedicating $50.0 million to the Transportation Partnership Opportunity Fund;
- Increasing the funding allocated for Transportation Research by $10.0 million; and
- Authorizing allocations to “state‐only” construction projects selected by the Commonwealth Transportation Board.
Switching to other areas of the budget, you may recall that as part of last year’s budget action, the General Assembly approved language to subject those retailers and other dealers that have over $1 million in yearly taxable sales to make accelerated sales tax (AST) payments. Typically, a retailer remits the retail sales tax they collect in the month following its collection. Therefore, last year, instead of paying June’s sales tax in July, retailers were required to pay in June – a month earlier than normal. Also, included in the budget was language to begin phasing out the AST payments in 2013. Last year’s action impacted 8,762 dealers across the Commonwealth. The Dulles Regional Chamber actively urged budget conferees this session to support efforts to reduce this burden on as many businesses, as quickly as possible. We were very pleased that the approved budget dedicates $45.7 million to eliminate AST for 80% of dealers that were subject to it in FY 2010. The threshold was set at $5.4 million or greater in annual sales, leaving only 1,736 large retailers subject to AST.
And finally, with regard to the Rainy Day Fund, the budget includes an additional $64 million deposit into the Rainy Day Fund Reserve, providing a total of $114 million, and ensuring that 50% of the amounts due in FY 2012‐2014 biennium are set aside. (Updated 03/2011)