The Right Note: Make Virginia No. 1

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

Mark KellyGov. Terry McAuliffe’s office recently announced that he has closed 228 economic development deals since January. This is a carryover from a similar push by the McDonnell administration to bring jobs to Virginia.

In a report by the Watchdog, the latest deal merely shifted jobs from one Virginia county to another. Regardless of the quality of all the deals, bringing business to Virginia is a laudable goal. This is especially true as Virginia must adjust to a federal government that will not go back to 2009 stimulus spending levels any time soon — if ever.

The question is should Virginia’s priority be to play let’s make a deal, or should we improve the baseline for our business climate?

According to the Tax Foundation, Virginia ranks 27th in overall business tax climate. Virginia ranked 23rd in 2012. Virginia’s elected officials have not done anything to make us significantly less competitive, but we are now in the bottom half of states rather than the top.

Governor McAuliffe issued a lengthy report outlining what he wanted to do to increase economic growth in 2015. It purports to outline a “New Virginia Economy” and is chock full of buzz words.

Included is a small section to “right size regulations” — though it is short on specifics and seems short on any real regulatory reforms. What is not in the report under any of the “goals & strategies” is making Virginia the number one business tax climate. The section mentioning taxes highlights that we are better than average by some measures — hardly a real selling point.

When competing with Maryland for businesses looking to locate in the greater Washington, DC area, Virginia is still ahead when it comes to the tax climate. But, if we want to truly compete nationally, we have to do more on the fundamental tax issues because every state competing for businesses is offering incentives like those currently being handed out by Governor McAuliffe.

Making Virginia number one for its business tax climate would be a real opportunity for the governor to work with the Republican-controlled General Assembly over the next three years. Unfortunately, it does not look like it will be a priority.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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