RICHMOND, Va. -- A year after taking office, Governor Ralph Northam laid out his legislative priorities and dropped that a big developer will be expanding in rural Virginia.
"The state of the Commonwealth is strong and we are poised to make it even stronger,” the Eastern Shore Democrat said.
Stronger with investments to bring tech jobs to Virginia. Amazon announced one of its headquarters will be in Northern Virginia. Wednesday night, the governor told lawmakers that a deal was made with Microsoft to expand its location in Mecklenburg County for the 6th time. This will bring 100 new jobs.
"This is a huge win for rural Virginia,” Northam added.
But to get these jobs, Northam says we need to get our workforce ready early on, by investing in K-12 education, giving teachers the biggest bump in pay in over a decade, as well as developing initiatives to increase the number of students enrolled in computer science college programs.
"We need to make long-term investments to sustain that quality for our students and to ensure we remain competitive in a 21st-century economy,” he explained.
To pay for this, the Governor has proposed a nearly $2.2 billion budget. His office says they plan to use state revenues, that are higher than anticipated this year, as well as money that’s expected to come if Virginia fully complies with the federal tax code changes.
Tonight in their response, Republican leaders said they wanted that money to go back to taxpayers.
"While providing targeted tax relief to middle and low-income Virginians,” Del. Bob Thomas (R-District 28) said.
House Speaker Kirk Cox (R - District 66) also emphasized this speaking with the media prior to the State of the Commonwealth address, saying this is one of the party’s biggest priorities.
“We feel very strongly with the new revenue and especially a lot of that being derived from the federal tax cut, that’s the big issue. For the middle class, if we fix that problem it’s about $800. That’s big money,” he added.
Republicans also said they want to reduce costs to healthcare coverage as well as using recommendations from the House Select Committee on School Safety to ensure students and teachers are protected in the classroom.
The Governor took a jab at the gridlock in Washington saying Virginians can be a leader in the next steps forward.
“Putting politics aside for the good of the people shouldn’t be hard. But as we are seeing up the road in Washington, some politicians have a way of making even the simplest things look difficult.
In recent weeks, our federal government has shut down, and thousands of Virginia’s federal workers, as well as all of those Americans whom they serve, have paid the price,” he added.
Among other things, the Governor also mentioned that he would like to see the simple possession of marijuana decriminalized, gun control legislation, making the earned-income tax credit refundable, and the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
If you’d like to read Governor Northam’s entire delivered remarks, click here.
For a video of the Republican response to the address, click here.