On May 3, VACo staff traveled to Southwest Virginia to conduct our third of eight regional meetings slated for 2023. VACo staff had the honor of traveling to Wise County, who graciously hosted the event, to meet with Region 13 county leaders at the historic Inn at Wise. VACo Region 13 encompasses the counties of Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell and Wise. These regional meetings allow us to hear directly from county staff and elected officials on the important issues facing localities across Virginia. They also help VACo staff craft the legislative program for the upcoming 2024 legislative session.
The meeting began with representatives from each county outlining top issues or legislative priorities in their localities. Throughout the meeting, the region identified common areas of concern, which include Constitutional office support funding, various unfunded mandates and the ability for localities in the region to locally raise revenue.
County leaders in VACo Region 13 discussed their concern with their individual localities’ ability to support constitutional offices within their jurisdiction and their interest in more state support for these offices as the already stretched thin resources of the counties are further stretched by supporting these mandated offices. Unfunded mandates were discussed frequently. VACo staff made sure to point out that VACo has a longstanding position of opposition to unfunded mandates and will continue to work with our legislative partners to curtail these efforts. The last major common area of concern was focused on the counties’ desire to have the ability to raise revenues locally. Counties in Region 13 stated that they appreciate the recently enacted meals tax and cigarette tax and that these types of local revenue raisers allow the counties to fix problems locally without asking for state resources or support. VACo was pleased to be joined by the Majority Leader of the Virginia House of Delegates, Delegate Terry Kilgore. Leader Kilgore represents the counties of Lee, Scott, part of Wise and the City of Norton, so his expertise and insight into the area was welcomed by all who attended. Leader Kilgore discussed the economic performance of Virginia and the various things he would like to see happen surrounding the economy, including additional tax relief. He would go on to convey his support for the recently enacted bill that consolidates all workforce development policies and programs under one roof, which will help track these various initiatives that seek to train people for jobs that are available and that are in high demand in Southwest Virginia. Other economic drivers that would be discussed include the proposed inland port near Washington County that would be an economic driver of the region and support companies locating data centers in the Region. Lastly, Leader Kilgore would state his support for bringing Small Modular Reactors and various types of energy projects to Southwest Virginia as well as increasing the amount of transmission lines built.
The meeting wrapped up with a presentation from the Executive Director of the Opioid Abatement Authority, Tony McDowell. Executive Director McDowell would give an overview of the creation of the Opioid Abatement Authority and an update on the Authority’s progress since inception. The presentation would entail an overview of the recent history of opioid litigation and the status of the settlement funds.
The meeting served as a great chance to connect with VACo member counties and get a grasp of the issues at heart in Region 13. VACo staff wants to first thank Wise County and the Inn at Wise staff for hosting us for a great meeting. We would like to give a special thanks to VACo Region 13 Director and Wise County Supervisor John Schoolcraft as well as the county leaders, staff, Majority Leader Kilgore, Executive Director McDowell, sponsors and other who attended and participated in the discussion.
VACo Contact: James Hutzler