Representatives from VACo, the Virginia Municipal League, and Virginia First Cities met with Governor McAuliffe, members of his Cabinet, and members of his staff on October 31 to discuss critical issues of importance to local government and receive updates on the Administration’s initiatives.
Governor McAuliffe reflected on the Administration’s economic development work, detailing Virginia’s rise in the cybersecurity, unmanned air systems, data analytics and biotechnology sectors. He noted that despite strong growth in the number of Virginians attaining degrees or credentials in science, technology, engineering, math, and health (STEM-H) fields, workforce development remains a challenge in areas such as cybersecurity. He reminded attendees that a strong K-12 system is essential in recruiting economic development prospects and discussed recent changes to the high school curriculum that are intended to promote problem-solving and reduce emphasis on standardized testing.
Secretary of Finance Ric Brown reminded attendees that the Governor’s budget will be unveiled on December 18. Key factors that will shape budget deliberations in the 2018 session include the effect of the national economic climate; the effects of potential cuts in federal spending and potential changes to the federal tax code; big-ticket mandatory spending items such as Standards of Quality rebenchmarking and the Medicaid forecast; the planned establishment of a separate cash reserve to alleviate bond rating agency concerns; and priorities such as funding for mental health and state employee compensation. Although major General Fund revenue sources have performed well in FY 2018 thus far, forecasting revenue collections over the past several fiscal years has been difficult, and there are concerns about the long-term effects of federal sequestration and whether the mix of high-, medium-, and low-wage jobs is changing in Virginia.
Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne discussed the current state of transportation funding in Virginia, explaining that despite an infusion of revenues provided by legislation that passed in 2013, state transportation revenues are generally only keeping pace with pre-2013 funding levels due to the expiration of bonds that had previously served as a funding stream. The regional taxes authorized by the 2013 legislation have enabled significant projects to move forward, but funding remains inadequate overall relative to the acuity of transportation needs. Secretary Layne suggested that solutions may be found either by generating additional revenues, leveraging private-sector dollars through public-private partnerships, or making use of additional federal dollars, should a major infrastructure initiative be undertaken by the Trump Administration. Local representatives discussed the need for improvements to Interstate 81 and the means of funding these improvements, as well as the need for more funding in all transportation districts.
Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran provided an update on the Administration’s response to the tragic events in Charlottesville in August, including an after-action review and the efforts of a task force that is examining model procedures for issuing permits for demonstrations. He encouraged attendees to promote collaboration between local law enforcement agencies and state law enforcement, perhaps through regular tabletop exercises, so that responses to future incidents can be better coordinated.
The meeting concluded with a discussion between attendees and Governor McAuliffe’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Suzette Denslow, and his Policy Director, Jennie O’Holleran. Issues such as the 2016 proffer bill and the transition to 5G wireless service were discussed, and the Governor’s staff encouraged local elected officials to work with the Governor-Elect’s transition team on matters of local concern in the coming months.
VACo Contact: Katie Boyle