Today, Virginia must compete economically against every other state in the nation, and even against other countries. To be successful in the long-term, we must have a world-class tax and regulatory system that fosters innovation and eschews crony capitalism and giveaways to politically powerful corporations. We also must educate and attract a world-class work force and provide a high quality of life to our citizens.
We can start by fixing our broken income tax code, with a top rate that currently kicks in at only $17,000 of income- a number that has not changed in 45 years. I would take a pro-innovation approach and eliminate the state income tax on the first $60,000 of household income, saving the average Virginia family $3,000 every year.
As governor, I would also make localities sunset inefficient, anti-business taxes such as BPOL taxes, merchant capital taxes, machine and tool taxes, and business personal property taxes, and replace them with better sources of revenue.
In step with the best practices of more innovative states, I would end most of Virginia’s anti-competitive occupational licensing schemes. Licensing requirements for cosmetologists, interior decorators, cemetery salespersons, auctioneers, and more put barriers in the way of Virginians looking to enter new professions that hold more opportunity.
I would give rural Virginia a shot in the arm by legalizing hemp and marijuana, which are well suited to be grown by Virginia’s farmers, and which would add billions of dollars of new economic activity to our number one industry- agriculture.
I would spur further growth and innovation in the booming food and beverage industries by eliminating absurd and antiquated anti-competitive business regulations that harass small business owners. Examples include the requirement that bars generate 45% of their revenue from the sale of food, the prohibition on use of the word “discount” or the mentioning of prices in connection with happy hour specials, the limitation of breweries to eight special events per year, the prohibition on direct sales of farm-produced goods and the exclusion of food trucks from most downtown areas.
By liberalizing our outmoded charter school regulations, now considered some of the worst in the nation, we can achieve success similar to that enjoyed by students in New York and other locales- increasing parental satisfaction and reducing costs while improving test scores. The most consistent research finding for quality charter school programs is that the regular, non-charter public schools always improve as a result.
Virginia has the potential to be the economic engine for the Mid-Atlantic region in the new millennium. The quality of our higher education system and the skill of our workers are unmatched. By being a little more innovative and willing to adopt best practices proven to work in other states, by giving Virginians more choice and introducing more competition into the economy, and by removing government barriers to success, we can embark on a new era of economic revitalization that carries forward every part of our Commonwealth and creates new opportunities for all Virginians.