“Virginia’s economic recovery continues to outpace the nation… Our unemployment rate remains well below the national average and has fallen consistently every month for the past fifteen months… I’m proud of our roaring economic growth…”
So claimed Governor Ralph Northam (D) in a September 17 news release.
It came just after Virginia’s economy showed especially anemic results in August employment data, capping a period of poor performance effectively described in a recent Bacon’s Rebellion post
by Richmond economist A. Fletcher Mangum. Virginia’s job growth this spring and summer has trailed the vast majority of other states, with the August data placing us at a shameful 47th out of 50. Simply achieving the national average growth rate that month would have meant 75,000 more jobs.
The anemic performance has causes, many a matter of government policy. One factor tied to government policy is federal contract spending, and while that proved a stable anchor during the recent COVID storm, in the period before and since it has provided little growth. Years of rhetoric about weaning the state off that dependence have produced little real change.Virtually all policy decisions in recent years have shown Virginia’s legislative and executive majority want to regulate and tax businesses more, empower organized labor and earn its gratitude, place an automatic escalator on the minimum wage, and unleash a flood of successful litigation on employers accused of any possible grievance an employee might raise.
Virginia’s Right to Work law is indeed an inch away from disappearing, and every business leader in the United States knows it. This election decides it.
Corporate income tax collections rose 83% in four years. The Tax Foundation noticed and ranked accordingly.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is dead. A modest regional expansion of an existing natural gas line also serving Hampton Roads is dead, killing one and maybe two planned power plants. The Mountain Valley Pipeline which will bring more energy to Western Virginia customers remains embattled. Virginia’s existing government is openly and gleefully hostile to fossil fuels in all forms.
Business leaders in the entire United States have noticed Virginia is now an anti-natural gas state, even at the local level. What energy is allowed is about to get expensive, Northeastern United States-level expensive, even Germany-level expensive.
The business climate headwinds described above have filtered into the rooms where investment decisions are made. That is what matters.