Home Message from Rockbridge native, Loudoun lawmaker: Democrats deliver for rural Virginia

Message from Rockbridge native, Loudoun lawmaker: Democrats deliver for rural Virginia

david reid
David Reid

Since the 2017 election, the Democrats have been consistently delivering for rural Virginia. In that time, we have either forced the Republicans to finally address the long-neglected needs of their constituents or we’ve rolled up our sleeves and addressed it ourselves.

Our focus on addressing rural issues was not because there was a plethora of new rural Democratic delegates. Democrats focused on these rural issues because the Republican Majority had been negligent in that region for far too long and it was the right thing to do.

Expanded Access to Basic Healthcare

Having grown up in the mountains of Virginia, I know what it’s like to live in rural Virginia without healthcare. For families like mine, that usually means delaying routine healthcare decisions until the condition becomes critical. This is the environment that existed as the Republicans continued to deny Medicaid expansion to over 400,000 Virginians.

This changed after the 2017 election. The Democrats ran on expanding healthcare access and the voters responded by expanding their House minority from 34 to 49. With this “muscular minority,” 18 Republicans finally joined with Democrats to support Medicaid Expansion. These new healthcare benefits mostly helped people in rural and urban areas, and stabilized the finances of 16 rural hospitals around the Commonwealth, allowing them to remain open and provide services to their local communities.

Interstate 81 Improvements

The longest single interstate road in Virginia is the 325 miles of I-81 that runs from the Virginia-Tennessee border, through Southwest Virginia, up the Shenandoah Valley to the Virginia-West Virginia border. This is the main thoroughfare for the rural western part of Virginia, and with only a few exceptions, every community along I-81 is represented by Republicans. But it took Democratic Governor Ralph Northam and Democrats in the Legislature to finally deliver meaningful funding for road improvements along I-81.

In 2019, HB2718 created the I-81 Corridor Improvement Program and Fund and provided dedicated funding for transportation and safety improvements over the entire length of the corridor. The $2.0 billion investment focused on ensuring people in the corridor could move freely and safely on I-81.

This legislation was supported by ALL 49 Democrats, from urban and suburban districts, and ONLY nine Republicans. The “No” votes were put on the board by the Republicans who represent constituents in the corridor. So if you’re grateful for the I-81 improvements, don’t thank your local Republican State Delegate – they voted against the legislation.

Rural Broadband Expansion

Prior to the Democrats taking over the House, Senate, and Governor’s Mansion in 2020, the Republican majorities and leadership had provided an anemic $4.0 million/year in rural broadband funding. During those years, they controlled the purse strings in Richmond and chose NOT to make rural broadband a priority.

However, with the Democrats in charge, the rural broadband funding increased to $22 million/year, then we added another $50 million/year and an additional $750 million from ARPA funds. The Democrats have now invested almost $1.0 billion toward achieving universal, high-speed broadband for rural Virginia, followed by an additional $1.4 billion in federal funding.

Rural School Construction and Modernization

For years, if not decades, Republicans would come to Richmond and make “political hay” about the declining schools in their districts. They’d advocate for do-nothing referendums and then bemoan the fact that their ill-conceived legislation didn’t pass. They’d come back the next year, repeat the same process, but never once did they offer a practical solution, or use their power of the budget to actually do anything.

There are at least 1,000 public schools around the Commonwealth that are 50+ years old, many in rural communities. The total cost to repair or replace these schools is a staggering $25 billion.

Taking this into consideration, in 2022, when the Commonwealth had a $13.8 billion surplus, a Northern Virginia Democrat proposed a $5.5 billion budget amendment to capitalize a school construction and modernization fund that would have aided the schools with the most severe need in rural Virginia. The Republicans mocked the approach on the House floor, never gave the amendment a hearing, and stated that school modernization was a problem that fell on the localities to solve, instead of their elected officials in the Legislature.

So, if you live in rural Virginia and are frustrated that your child is attending a school with water problems, leaking roofs, poor air conditioning and heating, and Vietnam War-era electrical wiring – you should direct your frustration to your Republican State Delegate or Senator.

Del. David Reid (D-Loudoun) was born and raised in Rockbridge County, where the Reid family has lived since at least the late 1700s. Growing up in poverty, without healthcare, and helping his dad do odd jobs around Buena Vista has given him a unique personal perspective on the issues facing rural Virginia.



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