Divisiveness threatens Virginia’s healthy business climate

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by Del. Franklin P. Hall

In recent months, Virginia has received numerous accolades — from “Most Business Friendly” to “Best Managed.”  In fact, one national publication congratulated Virginia’s children; because children born here are “most likely to succeed.” 

These accomplishments are neither flukes nor accidents. They are the result of years of hard work, as many of us labored to build a robust business climate and enhance our quality of life.  And while we can take pride in what we have achieved, we should resist the temptation to boast and hold off on those pats on the back.

Why?  Because our healthy business climate and quality of life are in jeopardy.  International entanglements and a sagging national economy are of no help, but Virginia’s greatest threat comes from within. There is an ever increasing willingness by some elected officials as well as special interest groups to identify divisive social issues, give them greater priority than fundamental public policy concerns (such as safety, education and transportation) and then demonize any who dare to differ on these issues. 

While we have been preoccupied with issues that are fundamentally private matters, we have failed to address adequately the legitimate responsibilities of government.  For example, in 2004 the General Assembly brought the workings of state government to near crisis because of its inability to reach agreement on a budget.  In 2006, the legislature proved unable to resolve the most pressing issue of the day — transportation.  Last year, with November elections and justifiably angry voters looming large, the General Assembly managed to pass a transportation package — hurriedly drafted, including far-ranging, untested policies with unintended consequences, some of which we are starting to discover, many of which remain unknown.  Does anyone truly believe this resembles a solution? 

A legislative body works best when it consists of individuals of good will who recognize their differences — political, regional — and yet are willing to work together to hammer out viable compromises that address the needs of all Virginians.  One of their guiding principles must be an abiding commitment to the long-term, financial stability of the commonwealth.  This financial stability is the foundation in which a healthy business climate is rooted. In turn, this climate creates jobs, fosters hope and provides our citizens with a reason to stay in Virginia rather than seek opportunity elsewhere. 

To this end, I call on Republicans, Democrats, independents and all other individuals involved in the development of our public policies to eschew the easy way out — demagoguery on divisive issues — and instead take the high road and the harder path, working together to pass common sense measures that enhance our collective quality of life as Virginians.

Virginia ranks first, so say many respected publications; that is well and good.  But if we want to keep it that way, we’ll have to work hard at it, all of us, together.

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