The Pulse

Dem control of Virginia government, progressive policies bad for business? Not.

By: - July 19, 2021 6:00 am

The oft-propagated notion (at least by those on the political right) that progressive policies are somehow bad for business and economic development received another thorough debunking last week in a new national assessment from CNBC. This is from a story by reporters Graham Moomaw and Ned Oliver of the Virginia Mercury entitled “Virginia Republicans have been warning Democratic control is bad for business. CNBC disagrees.”

Virginia Capitol – Photo, Ned Oliver

After Democrats took control of the General Assembly in 2020, a common refrain emerged among Republicans who opposed legislation that raised the minimum wage and added new anti-discrimination protections for employees.

“The Democrat majority has done much to diminish Virginia’s reputation for being America’s ‘best state for business,’” said Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment, R-James City, as Democrats’ first legislative session in power in more than two decades came to a close, invoking a ranking bestowed annually by the cable news network CNBC.

Two years later, it looks like at least some of those Democratic priorities actually helped the state’s business reputation.

For the second time in a row, Virginia was named the “best state for business” by CNBC, which this year began factoring things like anti-discrimination laws and voting rights protections into its rankings under the heading of inclusivity.

Of course, none of this should come as any particular surprise. Here in North Carolina (which came in second in the new rankings), the state regularly topped an array of “best states for business” lists throughout the 1990s and early 2000s during a period in which Democrats dominated state politics. Add this to the fact that low taxes and deregulation — two criteria regularly touted by GOP politicians and conservative think tanks as the supposed keys to a healthy economy — are regularly ranked near the bottom in survey after survey of real world businesses (behind things like having an educated workforce, easy access to good transportation, and a high quality of life for employees) and it’s actually a wonder that so many politicos still get away with propagating the myth.

Of course, it’s true that North Carolina’s high ranking comes at a time in which Republicans and their conservative tax-cutting policies have dominated state politics for the past decade. If nothing else, however, it would seem that the new rankings offer compelling evidence that: a) North Carolina taxes are already plenty low, and b) current GOP efforts to further slash taxes in the new state budget at the obvious expense of core quality-of-life services and structures like education and the environment make no sense at all.

Click here to read the entire Mercury story and here to explore the CNBC rankings and criteria.

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Rob Schofield
Rob Schofield

Editor Rob Schofield oversees day-to-day newsroom operations, authors regular commentaries, and hosts a weekly radio show/podcast.