This weekend brings a unique opportunity for Virginians looking to take advantage of tax-free shopping. This year Virginia’s tax-free events for back-to-school items, Energy Star products, and hurricane-preparedness resources are being combined into one tax-free weekend. The sales tax holiday will run from August 4 – 6. During the holiday, the following items will not be charged sales tax: clothing and shoes under $100 per item, school supplies under $20 per item, hurricane preparedness supplies under $60 per item, generators that cost less than $1,000, and any Energy Star or Water Sense products that cost less than $2,500. I encourage you to exercise fiscal responsibility, but clearly the savings can add up fast for much-needed items.
It seems hard to believe, but the summer is in the home stretch, with college students returning to campus in a scant three weeks and our K-12 children returning to the classroom the last week of the month. I mentioned our future adults and workforce of the Commonwealth because exciting developments are afoot in Virginia that will greatly benefit the younger population in the years to come.
Virginia remains at the forefront of innovation in both the education and energy spaces. Just last month, Governor McAuliffe announced that more than 2,000 workforce credentials have been awarded by Virginia’s community colleges through the New Economy Workforce Credentials grant program. This new, crucial program helps Virginians earn a license, credential, or certification needed for a high-demand career. The program is truly a win-win for the state, creating a 21st century workforce vital to attracting new businesses, and also enabling citizens to earn a good wage, growing the tax base of the Commonwealth., While Virginia is home to excellent four-year universities, we also have excellent pathways to the workforce through community college and workforce credentials.
The waters off the coast of Virginia are positioned to be a future wind energy hotspot. Dominion Energy Virginia, in partnership with DONG Energy of Denmark, a global leader in offshore wind development, is set to construct the first offshore federal land wind infrastructure in the mid-Atlantic region. The offshore wind project is expected to deliver 12 megawatts of clean, consistent power when it’s completed in 2020. Though 12 megawatts only powers in the neighborhood of 3,000 homes, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management estimates that full development of the site could eventually generate 2,000 megawatts of clean energy, powering more than 500,000 homes.
Wind energy in tandem with impressive recent solar developments in Virginia is creating both a cleaner environment and an attractive state for business. The explosive growth of data centers is just one example. These server farms that power the World Wide Web and “e-behemoths” such as Amazon, Google, Netflix, and Facebook are expected to annually consume the equivalent of 25,000 megawatts of power by 2020 and also emit more than 150 million metric tons of carbon pollution. There will be an immense need for cheap, clean energy, and Virginia’s wind and solar developments will pay dividends down the road.
The education and energy innovation going on in the Commonwealth combined with the Governor’s New Virginia Economy initiatives is already starting to reap benefits. CNBC recently released its “Best States for Business” 2017 rankings and Virginia moved up six spots to #7. I applaud Governor McAuliffe’s laser-like focus on making Virginia less reliant on federal monies by diversifying the economic base in the Commonwealth and growing a qualified workforce. Unemployment is down, wages are up, and we no longer have to hold our breath worrying about what the dysfunctional executive and legislative bodies across the Potomac plan next.
Finally, there is recent news from the Department of Medical Assistances Services that the Commonwealth Coordinate Care Plus (CCC Plus) is launching in Virginia. The CCC Plus program will transition Medicaid enrollees from a fee-for-service to a managed healthcare model and promises to bring a more compassionate, efficient level of care to some of our most at-risk citizens in the Commonwealth. I encourage you to learn more at cccplusva.com or by calling 1-844-374-9159.
Senator Saslaw represents the 35th District in the Virginia State Senate. He may be emailed at [email protected]