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Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership

The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership is a 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.  The Partnership is represented by Access Point Public Affairs.

>>Read our current position on Medicaid reform

Our 2014 Partnership Priorities are to:

• Continued investment in a vast array of economic investment and policy tools that enable the Commonwealth to attract and retain jobs and employers to Virginia.

• Increased investment in and development of research and development capabilities in the Commonwealth to support the significant economic development opportunities that will both require it and come with it.

• Investment in and support for conventional four-year degree programs, as well as highly-technical, specialized workforce training across the board, as well as those programs that will provide an emphasis on the science, technology, engineering, math and health – or STEM-H – fields, including 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.

• Investment in and support for 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, including reforms to Virginia’s SOLs to support the goals outlined above.

• Restoration of the full cost-to-competing funding for all public school employees in northern Virginia, including support staff.

• Support for the expansion of Medicaid, concurrent with reform, with both components essential to the outcome, in a way that is efficient, effective and expeditious.

• 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 congestion relief safety, and economic development.

• Opposition 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.

• The Partnership 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. 

• Support for 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.

• Support for legislative and budgetary initiatives that will improve Virginia’s pro-business environment and protection against initiatives that hamper business growth and success in the Commonwealth.

The following provides additional details on the Partnership’s focus for the 2014 General Assembly session.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership 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 Partnership encourages the General Assembly to invest fully in the various business incentive programs to encourage business investment in Virginia. The Partnership 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 Partnership 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.
  
In addition to the initiatives outlined above, the Partnership strongly supports efforts to ensure that Virginia’s legal system is as business-friendly as possible, which is critical to the Commonwealth’s ability to attract and retain businesses.  To this end, the Partnership is actively working as a member of the Virginia Alliance for Tort Reform (VATR), which is a coalition of Virginia businesses and advocacy organizations supporting pro-business reforms of Virginia’s civil justice system. The Partnership supports common sense reforms which will promote fairness, efficiency, and a more favorable business climate in Virginia. During these tough economic times, Virginia must do all that it can to strengthen its business environment through increased protections and make Virginia even more attractive for economic development.

WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT

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 Partnership 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.   The Partnership 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. The Partnership also supports SOL reform to support the goals outlined above.

It is also a critical priority to the Partnership 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 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 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.

HEALTHCARE

The Partnership 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. The Partnership also supports maximum flexibility to encourage business to provide the best health insurance options for employees in the free market system.

The Partnership supports legislation that ensures access to affordable and stable group health insurance for all businesses, including sole proprietors and businesses with few employees. The Partnership 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, the Partnership 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, the Partnership supports the expansion of Medicaid, concurrent with reform, with both components essential to the outcome.

The Partnership 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.

TRANSPORTATION

The Partnership 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 Partnership 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 Partnership 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 the Partnership.

The Partnership 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, the Partnership 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 Partnership is also focused on the following specific issues this session:

• The Partnership 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, the Partnership 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 Partnership 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.

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