Ken Plum: Building a new Virginia economy

kenplum2Candidate Terry McAuliffe campaigned on a platform of building a new Virginia economy.  His theme clearly resonated with voters who elected him and with those who were concerned with Virginia’s sluggish recovery from the Great Recession. Following his campaign closely, I was impressed with his grasp of the issues and his commitment to resolving them. With his usual exuberance, the Candidate and now Governor made clear that he broadly defines the elements of a new economy. If there was any question remaining about what the Governor views as the new economy, those questions were likely answered in his speech to a joint session of the General Assembly last week.

Certainly a new economy is about bringing in new business and diversifying the state’s economic interests, especially in light of federal sequestration. In his first year in office the Governor has brought $5.58 billion in capital investment to the Commonwealth–over twice as much as any previous administration. Sometimes referred to derogatorily during the campaign as a “deal-maker,” his skills are proving invaluable in attracting new and expanded business to the state. He clearly relishes his role as chief salesman for the Commonwealth.

As the Governor made clear in his speech, a new economy needs a world-class workforce to support it. He proposed to the legislature that funding for workforce programs be increased and that the complex and confusing structure of job training programs be streamlined and simplified with more attention to apprenticeship programs and greater transparency and accountability in the system. To ensure that young people are prepared to enter the workforce, the Governor requested that K-12 and colleges and universities be spared from further cuts as the budget is balanced. He also proposed legislation to make daycare safe, to expand preschool education, and to reduce the number of children who go hungry at school. He will give special emphasis to seeing that veterans get jobs.

The Governor describes the new economy as a place where no Virginian would go without access to quality, affordable healthcare. While his definition is supported by policy in about half the states, it is controversial in Virginia where the General Assembly has refused to accept more than two billion dollars in federal funds to expand Medicaid to cover healthcare needs of the working poor.

Other elements of the governor’s vision of a new economy that I support include diversifying the state’s fuel mix through solar, wind and nuclear power; ensuring the public’s safety with commonsense, reasonable laws to reduce gun violence, sexual violence and domestic abuse; and ending discrimination based on race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. He wants women to be paid equally for equal work and to have their rights protected to make their own healthcare decisions.

Many of his proposals may be threatening to the old establishment in Virginia, but that is alright. Virginia in so many regards needs to move into the 21st century and embrace the global new economy.

Ken Plum is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.

augusta free press
augusta free press

uva basketball team of destiny

Team of Destiny: Inside UVA Basketball's improbable run

Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25.

The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.


Augusta Free Press content is available for free, as it has been since 2002, save for a disastrous one-month experiment at putting some content behind a pay wall back in 2009. (We won’t ever try that again. Almost killed us!) That said, it’s free to read, but it still costs us money to produce. The site is updated several times a day, every day, 365 days a year, 366 days on the leap year. (Stuff still happens on Christmas Day, is what we’re saying there.) AFP does well in drawing advertisers, but who couldn’t use an additional source of revenue? From time to time, readers ask us how they can support us, and we usually say, keep reading. Now we’re saying, you can drop us a few bucks, if you’re so inclined.


augusta free press
augusta free press news