Among other items discussed on this month’s WRVA “Ask the Governor” show with Ralph Northam (audio embedded below):
- At 11 minutes in, there’s discussion of budget amendments that would lead to $268 million in new investments in public education. According to Gov. Northam, Virginia’s economy is doing very well, so some of the money will come from increased revenues due to the strong economy. Also, there’s the internet sales tax and changes to the federal tax code. Need to focus on putting money in reserves (“Rainy Day Fund”), giving Virginians a pay raise (e.g, the Earned Income Tax Credit), investing in education…need to be able to pay teachers adequately in order to retain them (potentially largest pay raise for teachers in over 15 years, according to Gov. Northam). Also need to invest in conservation and the environment, state police, broadband. “We have a lot of ideas where to invest this [extra half billion dollars] responsibly in Virginia.”
- At 15 minutes in, there’s a question about the bad conditions in the Richmond City public schools and whether there’s anything Virginia can do about that situation. Gov. Northam responded that there’s an “at-risk fund” for children in “low socioeconomic areas.” Another fund is “per pupil” for schools to use at their discretion. As for school buildings, there’s a “literary fund” for localities to build new schools; Northam is proposing to put $80 million into that fund.
- At 19:00, Gov. Northam talks about medical marijuana. “The next step is to really look at decriminalizing marijuana” (that’s at the federal level). Potential to use medical marijuana instead of opioids. Northam argues that legalizing marijuana is much different than decriminalizing it.
- At 22:45, Gov. Northam talks about changes in the federal tax code and the need for Virginia to “conform” to that code. The subject of tax reform is “another discussion” that needs to happen; there are various options, including making the Earned Income Tax Credit totally refundable, increasing deductions, leveling the playing field for those making less than $54,000 per year.
- At 25:00, there’s discussion of gerrymandering and having a constitutional amendment on this subject. Gov. Northam said it’s time to get rid of gerrymandering, let voters choose their politicians and not the other way around. He said he supports non-partisan redistricting. There are several plans on the table, this will be a constitutional amendment.
- At 30 minutes, there’s a question about the environment and the pipelines – “how do you justify being a leader on climate change when your carbon reduction plan would reduce by about 10 million tons but the the [Atlantic Coast Pipeline – ACP] would bring in 30 million tons of carbon pollution and the [Mountain Valley Pipeline – MVP] 40 million tons of carbon pollution…how you think that math is supposed to work, and why you haven’t visited communities along the paths of the MVP and ACP, including those on SW Virginia whose water has already been affected?” Northam’s response was to assure listeners that “this has been one of the most rigorous permitting processes” with “tremendous oversight” and people both for and against the pipelines. Northam said he’s tried to be as “fair as possible,” “abiding by our science and law.” In other words, this was Northam’s standard NON-“answer,” which really doesn’t address the concerns at all but simply evades it. Frustrating and infuriating, really.
- Follow-up question regarding the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board, essentially firing two members who were opposed to the pipelines. Northam denied that they were fired, gave his standard non-answer about how their terms expired in June, how this was totally routine, blah blah blah. Utter nonsense. Northam also claimed he didn’t ask people how they were going to vote, which is also VERY disingenous, since clearly the “fix is in” on this project, and it’s absolutely NOT a coincidence that the members who were dismissed appeared likely to oppose the compressor station in Union Hill.
- Finally, on expanding gambling in Virginia, Gov. Northam said “everything in moderation,” we “need to do it carefully,” but “let’s allow them to [gamble] in Virginia” and keep the revenue in our state.