WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe shared his vision for a new economy for the state in his annual address on Wednesday, while raising a rallying cry for the Democratic party’s leading issues.
Virginia survived the 2007-09 recession relatively unscathed. Close to the nation’s capital, it is home to many federal contractors and military installations. But in recent years, congressional budget fights and federal spending cuts have hit the state’s labor force and economy.
“What remains to be seen is how we respond to the new reality that the days when Virginia could simply rely on federal spending to buoy our economy, in good times and bad, are over,” he said. “If we are going to preserve Virginia’s position as a global economic leader, we must open new avenues for growth that are not dependent on federal spending.”
He outlined initiatives to break into other industries and draw new businesses to the state, including setting aside funds to compete for housing a new electron ion collider project and saying he would introduce legislation to create an energy development fund.
McAuliffe also pushed for more economic development, saying that for every dollar invested in the Virginia Economic Development Partnership the state receives nine dollars in budget revenue, and touted the state’s agricultural exports.
While McAuliffe promoted infrastructure as an economic booster, noting he and state lawmakers had drafted legislation for funding transportation projects without raising taxes, he also raised questions about privatization. He called for reforms to state’s public-private partnership program to ensure greater accountability.
McAuliffe, who became the state’s chief executive last year, has enjoyed a high profile among Democrats for nearly 20 years that included chairing Democratic National Committee. Republicans, though, control Virginia’s legislature, and many of his policy proposals could face resistance.
His speech touched on many of his party’s key issues, including gun control, abortion, education and healthcare. He also took on unequal pay among men and women, saying he will introduce legislation “that will increase the penalties for companies that fail to pay every worker equally.”
Recently, the commonwealth’s image has suffered two major stains, with former Governor Bob McDonnell sentenced to federal prison on corruption charges and Rolling Stone publishing an article about rape allegations at the University of Virginia.
McAuliffe suggested capping gifts to lawmakers and proposed developing a unified sexual misconduct policy for all of Virginia’s public colleges and universities.
(Reporting By Lisa Lambert; Editing by Robert Birsel)