Compensation for Virginia State Employees
In a 2014 study published by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, researchers compared all fifty states in how public-employee compensation packages relate to private-sector standards. Virginia ranked dead last.
Thirty states gave public employees the same or better packages than their private-sector equivalents; Virginia, on average, pays its state workers about 6% less.
When public employees are not paid at a reasonable market price, our state suffers. We lose valuable employees to other states or to the private sector because they offer better compensation. Our state universities are losing the best professors; our state police are being denied raises; retired public employees through the Virginia Retirement System suffer.
A Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission (JLARC) report this fall will likely demonstrate that an under-compensated public sector workforce has repressed the economy of the Commonwealth. In 2018, the General Assembly will need to take action to more fairly compensate Virginia public employees. I know how critical this issue is, and I will work to compensate our employees fairly.
Student Loan Debt
The necessity of vocational schools and colleges is undeniable, but the costs have been ballooning out of control. At 37, I am still paying off student loans that I incurred in undergraduate and graduate school. Let’s work together to reduce the load of student debt that the average student has when entering the job market.
There are two ways to make post-secondary education more affordable and improve the career prospects for all young Virginians:
1. Mitigating the costs: Subsidizing the cost of college is a critical first step. State-directed funds toward four-year universities have been steadily decreasing, which has forced students and parents to shoulder the burden of tuition increases. Virginia needs to allocate more funding toward our excellent public universities so that tuitions could be reduced or even frozen. In addition, Virginia should work toward a system of having vocational training, apprenticeships, and community colleges available free for at least two years. If this occurred, Virginia would produce well-educated persons ready to excel in the workforce.
2. Finding creative solutions to forgive debt: Several states, including Virginia, connect needed jobs to debt forgiveness. Currently, a small number of medical professionals and attorneys can work in highly specific areas for at least three years and have a portion of their loans forgiven. This is a positive step but too limited. Virginia needs to expand this debt forgiveness into multiple industries.
Civil Rights and Appreciation
Every American, no matter their race, sex, ethnicity or national origin, language, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or disability, is equal. I will work to make sure that this equality extends to those who have been marginalized. But, more than that, I want to promote a community that appreciates our rich diversity. District 26 already does a marvelous job of having festivals and rallies and groups to support our diversity, but I think that there can be changes made at the state level as well.
For instance, in the LGBTQ+ community, gender-neutral bathrooms (and, at JMU, gender-neutral living accommodations) should be easier to locate and more plentiful. In addition, there needs to be open dialogue so that we can end the marginalization of the LGBTQ+ community. Through more discussion and action, we can end anti-LGBTQ+ violence, bullying, and discrimination, to ensure that LGBTQ+ Americans are treated with dignity and respect in their communities, their workplaces, and their schools.
Persons with disabilities have also been marginalized. Under ACA, pre-existing conditions were covered, but we can do more by expanding Medicaid. Moreover, Virginia is ranked 39th in the country for its developmental disability services because of the long waiting lists for services and over-reliance on expensive and outdated state institutions. We need to invest in community services (not institutions) for people with developmental disabilities. Beyond health, though, persons with disabilities often have a more difficult time moving into the workforce; programs like the Virginia Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) help persons with disabilities find meaningful employment and should be supported and enhanced.