Moving into a new year

Published 12:16 pm Wednesday, January 2, 2019

It is my hope that each and every one of you had a blessed and merry Christmas. Often, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, folks are simply too rushed with year-end issues — shopping, baking and all the other things that take time and energy — to reflect on how blessed we are that Christ is part of our lives. These last several days after Christmas have given me time to better reflect.

Now, as the new year is beginning, I wish all a fruitful new year. Hoping 2019 will bring you good health, well-being and peace of mind in all that you do.

Prior to that, I spent much time preparing myself for the 2019 Session. The Governor presented to us his wish list as to how he would like to spend expected new revenue to the state. That extra revenue comes from two major sources. The first is that the national economy has been very strong, driving up wages, spending, and other economic activity. The second is based on the Trump tax cut changes on the federal level. Virginia is expecting over $2 billion over the next several years. All of which he proposes spending over that period of time. Each of his proposals focuses on the various special interests that supported him in his 2017 election. The worst of those proposals is one in which he would avoid conforming Virginia’s tax code to that of the federal government and spend it. Many of us believe that it would be far wiser to make sure everyone shares in the Trump tax cut. For years, taxpayers have complained that Virginia has not kept pace with the federal government in adjusting our exemptions for inflation. This in effect is a tax increase. The Governor instead would redirect these funds from those who pay them to others.

I have spent many hours in meetings over the last two months dealing with issues that will affect the lives of many of our constituents, such as how we can continue to improve workforce training and economic development throughout the region. Other meetings focused on the growing needs and challenges of our schools, universities, and the needs of early childhood education. Our public schools were cut during the last recession. We are only now bringing them to the level of funding of a decade ago. Many of us believe our universities have not communicated to students what majors and skills are most needed in the marketplace. We are focused on rewarding universities based on the concept that the funds we give them will be adjusted to those programs that relate to the jobs available as we move forward. Study after study indicates that early childhood is something on which we must continue to work. We must do a better job of communicating to young people what skills best match the opportunities available.

I continue to focus much of my attention on how we can make Virginia a better place to do business. In turn, that will attract businesses to start and grow businesses that will employ our citizens. We want those businesses all-around the state in order for young people to stay where their family has roots if they should want. To that point, I have a package of changes that will reduce some of the red tape slowing down starting a business or preventing a business from expanding to Virginia, particularly rural Virginia.

The challenges are many. In the next couple of months, we will be trying to work through the issues involved that will affect families both directly and indirectly. I look forward to serving you as best as possible. That task will be greatly enhanced if you contact my office as to how you believe legislative proposals will affect your family.

Frank Ruff represents Lunenburg in the state Senate. His email address is Sen.