The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership is collaboration between the Dulles Regional, Greater Reston and Loudoun County chambers of commerce. The Partnership collectively represents more than 2,800 businesses and 100,000 jobs, providing an unparalleled voice for Northern Virginia’s business community in Richmond. The following provides additional details on the Partnership’s focus for the 2012 General Assembly session.
The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership believes Virginia should invest additional financial and personnel resources to fund a more aggressive and comprehensive national and international marketing program that leverages the Commonwealth’s strongest economic assets, including industry sectors where Virginia possesses a clear competitive advantage.
The Partnership encourages the General Assembly to invest fully in the various business incentive programs to encourage business investment in Virginia. The Partnership supports continued funding of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) incentive programs, as well as significant increases to the Governor’s Opportunity Fund, and an emphasis on policies that broaden the eligibility requirements, enabling firms in Northern Virginia that increase local tax revenues to qualify for critical economic development incentives.
The Partnership encourages the VEDP to develop state incentive programs that focus on company retention and recruitment, and give greater priority within these incentive programs to encourage the creation of higher paying jobs, like those in Northern Virginia.
The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership specifically supports responsible use of eminent domain authority in instances when the rights of property owners are fairly balancedwith the rights of entities with existing eminent domain authority; however, the Partnership strongly opposes efforts to amend the Virginia Constitution with regard to the issue of eminent domain or definition of public use, given these issues are clearly addressed and defined in the Virginia statute.
EMPLOYMENT AND LABOR ISSUES
The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership supports legislative and regulatory policies that stimulate economic growth and create jobs by allowing businesses to fairly manage their personnel resources without undue government or outside intervention. The Partnership favors allowing free market conditions to determine important labor issues such as compensation and conditions of employment, while strongly advocating that all employers meet their legal and ethical obligations to their employees and the government. The Partnership opposes expanded government regulation of the workplace, including legislation that would limit an employer's right to operate during a strike.
Unionization and Right To Work Laws: The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership opposes any local, state or federal laws or regulations that undermine Virginia’s Right To Work laws, which have played a historically significant role in the state’s nationally recognized economic and employment growth. The Partnership opposes all federal legislative or regulatory proposals that undermine the rights of Virginia’s workers to secret ballot elections to decide whether to form a union. The Partnership also opposes legislative or regulatory proposals to authorize federal government officials to impose workplace rules, such as wage levels and work hours, in the absence of an agreement between management and employees. The Partnership also opposes the imposition of additional sanctions, such as fines against businesses for violations during the union recognition process.
Minimum Wage: Because increases in the minimum wage fall disproportionately on small businesses, which are often the least able to absorb dramatic increases in labor costs, the Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership opposes increases in the minimum wage and believes that any increase must include provisions that lessen the cost and regulatory burden on Virginia’s small businesses.
Unemployment Compensation: The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership supports Virginia's unemployment compensation laws, which provide adequate and temporary financial assistance to employees who become unemployed through no fault of their own. The Partnership opposes the extension of benefits to workers who, through their own actions or inactions, become unemployed, including as a result of an employer-initiated lockout or an employee strike.
Wage and Benefit Mandates: The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership opposes Living Wage proposals and other government mandates that establish wage and benefits levels as a condition for obtaining contracts with that government.
Workers’ Compensation: The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership opposes any changes to Virginia's workers' compensation law that would increase costs and regulatory burdens on businesses, or otherwise undermine the laws existing sound principles and purpose.
Davis-Bacon Act:The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership supports the outright repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires businesses to pay employees in the construction industry government-determined prevailing wages and benefits on federal and federally assisted construction contracts exceeding $2,000 in total cost. Repeal of the archaic and wasteful Davis-Bacon Act would save the federal government an estimated $8.6 billion in construction costs and $100 million in administrative costs per year. It would also save the construction industry $190 million in compliance costs. Most importantly, repeal of the act would lead to more infrastructure improvements and the creation of 31,000 new construction jobs as the construction industry faces record-high unemployment.
Project Labor Agreements: The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership opposes project labor agreements (PLAs) mandated by local, state and federal governments, and other entities on taxpayer-funded construction projects. Government-mandated PLAs end open, fair and competitive bidding on public works projects by discouraging competition from qualified nonunion contractors and their nonunion employees. These agreements unfairly steer contracts to unionized contractors and create jobs only for unionized employees. Research indicates PLA mandates increase construction costs between 12% and 18% with no discernible benefit. Added costs attributed to reduced competition could be even greater in Virginia, where just 3.9 percent of the construction industry is unionized. The Partnership is particularly concerned because we believe mandated PLAs will drive work out of the Commonwealth given very few contractors are unionized in Virginia.
In-sourcing: The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership opposes any federal, state, or local in-sourcing of private-sector labor positions to government-sector positions, unless the function being in-sourced is inherently governmental in nature and/or the in-sourcing decision is substantiated by a bona-fide cost-benefit analysis that shows that efficiencies and documented cost savings will result from the in-sourcing activity. Any such cost-benefit analysis must reflect all true costs associated with both the private sector activity, as well as the government sector activity, to include items such as, but not all inclusively, direct labor costs, fringe benefit costs, retirement costs, overhead costs, general and administrative costs, and any other direct and indirect costs that would be incurred by either party.
ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnershipsupports energy independence through every means available that does not do meaningful damage to the environment. The Partnership supports programs that meet the energy needs of current and future citizens. As such, we encourage the development of new energy sources and expansion of electricity generation and transmission. Renewable energy, as well as increased energy conservation and efficiency, also should be included in the Commonwealth’s energy portfolio. In addition, we seek policies that support technology neutrality.
The Partnership supports initiatives that can reduce energy use while contributing to the environmental goals outlined in the Virginia Energy Plan. Such initiatives include development of new energy sources, alternative energy, green buildings, transit-oriented development, and an increase in energy-related research and development. We also support “green” initiatives throughout our region through use of incentives and market-driven policies that promote voluntary compliance.
The Partnershipalso supports policies that provide appropriate incentives – including, but not limited, to tax credits, development densities, fast track permitting approval and other measures that are competitive with those offered in surrounding jurisdictions – specifically for businesses that invest in environmentally sustainable building designs and systems.
The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership recognizes the importance of the healthcare industry to the economy and the community, and supports federal and state reimbursement levels that do not harm providers or result in a shift of the payment burden to the private sector. The Partnership supports the continued introduction and expansion of healthcare facilities throughout Northern Virginia to increase the availability of quality healthcare services for business owners, employees and their families.
The Partnership supports collaborative efforts between healthcare stakeholders, including providers, purchasers, insurers and consumers, to ensure continued innovation and creativity in the private marketplace. The goals of these efforts should include the following:
•Expand healthcare infrastructure (both inpatient and outpatient);
•Manage healthcare costs impacting businesses;
•Increase accessibility of healthcare and insurance;
•Diminish complexity in healthcare;
•Enhance choice and transparency;
•Plan appropriately for emergency preparedness and foster public-private partnerships to address pandemic preparedness; and
•Expand services offered by safety net healthcare providers, such as the Loudoun Community Health Center and Loudoun Free Clinic, so all Loudoun’s residents have access to healthcare.
The Partnership is extremely concerned with the impact of federal healthcare reform legislation on the business community. Looking forward, the Partnership urges careful consideration of the impact of any policy change or development of regulations in this arena on the business community. The Partnership specifically supports Virginia’s choice to work toward the creation of a state-controlled Health Benefits Exchange, as required by the federal healthcare reform legislation. We support initiatives that improve quality and lower costs, encourage fair regulation of the insurance market, build a robust healthcare marketplace for consumers, provide expansion of coverage for the uninsured, expand the use of healthcare IT, create an emphasis on prevention and wellness, and promote pay-for-performance.
The Partnership specifically supports legislation that ensures access to group health insurance for all businesses, including sole proprietors and businesses with few employees. The Partnership supports legislation that reduces state burdens and provides tax incentives to help small businesses offset the staggering increases in health insurance costs, including incentives that encourage participation in “consumer-driven” healthcare plans. These plans not only can increase the number of catastrophically insured, but also put the individual end-users back in control of economic decisions between themselves and their service providers.
The Partnership opposes any legislation that threatens consumer access to healthcare coverage or contributes to increased health insurance costs for employers and their employees. In our community, the Partnership supports exploration of opportunities to provide affordable healthcare to members of the business community, including those without health insurance, through local Health Departments, Free Clinics and Community Health Centers, as well as any other health-related service provider and/or clinic that the market will bear.
The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership recognizes the importance of and supports all of the colleges and universities, both public and private, which provide high quality undergraduate, graduate and professional education to Northern Virginia’s residents. The Partnership supports positioning the Commonwealth’s public and private higher education institutions to play a full role in shaping job creation in a global knowledge-based economy, and calls on the Commonwealth’s elected leaders to reverse a decade of reduction in state funding for higher education that has shifted the burden of funding to students and families.
The Partnership believes, however, that any new state investment must be targeted toward specific goals that will provide the best return on investment for every dollar spent, including:
•Awarding 70,000 more high quality degrees to Virginia residents over the next 10 years.Virginia’s economy needs more of its citizens prepared to take jobs in the diverse knowledge-based economy. Increasing the number of degrees awarded by 70,000 would mean that 50% of Virginia’s citizens would have an associate, bachelors or graduate degree.
•Targeting new degrees in high income, high demand job sectors.Virginia’s economy will depend on increasing the number of workers able to take on jobs in high demand fields of technology, engineering, science and math, and in areas experiencing shortages, like healthcare, which is particularly important in Northern Virginia.
•Expanding job-specific training at community colleges.The chambers in the Partnership have long supported Northern Virginia Community College’s (NVCC) efforts in job-specific training and believe this unique resource should be expanded and enhanced via more consistent state funding.
•Increasing public-private collaboration for university-based research.Innovation drives the Northern Virginia economy. Northern Virginia businesses need an expanded way to interact with the area’s higher education institutions to produce and commercialize original research. The Commonwealth remains one of the few states that do not have dedicated funding for technology transfer. University-based research can only be brought to market quickly if the Commonwealth supports it.
•Making colleges affordable for low- and middle-income students and families. Northern Virginia enjoys a diverse citizen base. The Commonwealth and our higher education institutions must do more to encourage a greater number of students to seek education beyond high school. The cost of education should not be a barrier to getting a degree. Financial aid is a key ingredient in this affordability challenge. Without increases in state-funded financial aid, access and affordability remain a problem.
TAXES AND REGULATORY POLICY
The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership supports the substantive reform of Virginia’s tax and revenue system to more closely align the source of the Commonwealth’s tax revenues with the spending priorities of state and local governments. The Partnership believes that all tax policies must be assessed against the potential impact on Virginia’s economic growth and viability, and not based solely on anticipated revenues.
The Partnership believes the state must invest in essential infrastructure that is critical to the economic health of the revenue-producing regions in Virginia in order to enable the success in these regions that benefits the entire Commonwealth. Specifically, the Partnership believes high growth areas, like those in Northern Virginia, should have greater access to the income tax revenue generated by its citizens to support the increased costs associated with that growth, such as building new schools and roads, and paying the salaries of teachers and public safety personnel.
The Partnership opposes any amendment to the Virginia Constitution permitting the creation of a homestead exemption or similar tax policy that would result in higher commercial real estate taxes through creation of a new class of real property that may be exempted from local taxation. In addition, the Partnership supports the removal of the sunset clause on the current statute related to the commercial and industrial tax rate in Northern Virginia.
The Partnership supports regulatory policies that emphasize the importance of strong economic growth, while ensuring rules are cost-effective and based on valid scientific and technical data. The Partnership opposes unfunded mandates or policy positions, particularly those that would require Virginia’s businesses and other taxpayers to fund the long-term costs of these mandates.
The Partnership opposes arbitrary efforts to limit or suspend growth and economic development, and opposes excessive and inconsistent regulations placed on business development or expansion. The Partnership supports the periodicreview and revision of the processes by which state government permits and regulates business activities. Existing requirements that do not contribute to meaningful improvement of the application or proposal under consideration must be streamlined or eliminated where appropriate. The Partnership also supports efforts to encourage business growth through streamlining government review processes.
Completion of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project to Washington Dulles International Airport and eastern Loudoun County, and securing additional federal, state and private-sector funding to reduce projected toll increase levels associated with the project is a top priority to the Partnership. The Partnership also continues to strongly support efforts to secure new, sustainable, long-term regional and statewide transportation funding to meet our critical transportation construction and maintenance needs.
TOURISM AND BUSINESS TRAVEL
Because of the economic advantages offered by a robust visitor and conference industry, the Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership supports an integrated, well-funded approach to marketing Virginia as a visitor destination. We believe the Commonwealth’s destination marketing and funding strategy must place high priority on those activities that generate the most tax revenue, while creating economic opportunities for businesses in the visitor and conference industry.
Immigration: Immigrants have played a key role in the prosperity and growth of Northern Virginia, filling key jobs in every sector of our economy and contributing to the rich cultural and intellectual experience that characterizes our region. Businesses increasingly depend on foreign workers to fill jobs to remain competitive and to grow to meet future demands for products and services.
The Partnership supports efforts by the federal government to strengthen national security by providing thorough screening of foreign workers and creating strong disincentives for illegal immigration. The Partnership also advocates that all businesses strictly comply with state and federal labor laws regarding the screening of citizenship documentation provided by employees, to avoid the hiring of individuals who are not lawfully residing in the U.S.
The Partnership, however, opposes increased penalties on employers who unknowingly hire undocumented aliens until a consistent, reliable process for worker verification systems is established. The Partnership advocates that any such worker verification system not unduly burden employers, be properly funded, and have a high data integrity confidence factor. At this time, the Partnership does not believe E-Verify is a verification system that meets these thresholds and therefore, opposes efforts to mandate employer use of E-Verify.
The Partnership supports comprehensive immigration reform that, along with border security measures, will:
•Ensure an adequate supply of workers to support businesses in this region, including a limited guest worker program to fill gaps in our workforce;
•Continue and expand H-1B, L-1, and EB visas for professionals and highly skilled workers, and H-2B temporary visas that supportseasonal industries and small businesses;
•Consider policies to require undocumented workers already contributing to the economy, provided that they are law-abiding and prepared to embrace the obligations and values of our society, to meet specific conditions and obligations in order to earn the legal right to remain in the U.S.; and
•Address delays, backlogs, and disruptions in our immigration and border management systems that impede the movement of legitimate cargo and travelers across U.S. borders.
The Partnership believes that, on the immigration issue specifically, policymakers should be careful to ensure that legislation not increase costs and administrative burdens for businesses without any tangible economic benefit.
Housing: The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership recognizes that housing policy is an essential factor in economic development and supports the following initiatives to address the workforce needs in Northern Virginia:
•Adopt the recommendations of Governor McDonnell’s Housing Policy task force to increase the availability of housing options to meet the needs of a growing regional workforce;
•Use of federal, state and local incentives, such as tax credit programs, to maximize the production of affordable and workforce housing in high-density development and/or transit centers.
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