In 2012, in a Super Bowl commercial, actor Clint Eastwood proclaimed that it is half-time in America. He called for America’s comeback and a focus on what’s ahead. Midway through the 2014 General Assembly session, it could be said that it is half-time in Virginia as well.
Virginia has done better that most other states to survive the economic recession of the past several years. This, despite decreased government spending and cuts to defense that has impacted Hampton Roads and other Virginia military communities. Nationally, we have seen the gap between rich and poor grow wider than ever. And in Virginia, we proudly announce that we are ranked number one for business by Forbes but it remains to be seen what we will do for struggling families.
The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy is working to help close the health care gap. Making Medicaid available for more people will keep families healthy, save money and create the new jobs that will care for people. We also think that cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program should keep pace with inflation and provide the extra help to get kids ready for school with money for school supplies and clothes. Similarly, the Earned Income Credit (EIC) in Virginia which rewards work for low-income families would really make a difference if it were fully refundable, just like the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
To paraphrase Clint Eastwood, “all that counts is what’s ahead.” We are at a critical time in our economic recovery when we can set aside our differences and look to the future with confidence. As of 2013, an estimated 7,000 immigrant students in Virginia are eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that authorizes them to live, work, and attend school in the United States. Only a small percentage of these will seek a four-year degree from a Virginia school, but for those that do, we should offer in-state tuition to make college more affordable. If they can show proof of residency and if they have paid taxes for at least three years in Virginia, then we want these high-achievers to go as far as their ability and ambition will take them.
We have a lot to be thankful for in Virginia but we must continue to work hard to ensure that the future remains bright. We want all Virginians to start the second half on a level playing field with equal opportunities for an education and for the help they need as they raise their families.
It’s half-time in Virginia and the future is ours to chart.
Peace be with you,
Marco A. Grimaldo