RICHMOND, Va. – As several Republicans held a press conference about bathrooms, House Democratic leaders today rolled out a robust package of new initiatives that will strengthen the New Virginia Economy and ensure no working person is left behind.
Three key proposals form the cornerstone of the plan: raising wages, relieving student loan debt and training a 21st century workforce. By raising the minimum wage and allowing borrowers to refinance their debt, Democrats will put more money directly into the pockets of working families, which in turn strengthens their local economies. Furthermore, training Virginia’s workforce for jobs of the future will help fill the thousands of high-paying tech jobs that remain vacant in the state every year.
“Republicans are next door talking about bathrooms, but we’re talking about jobs,” said House Democratic Leader David J. Toscano. “Virginians need more jobs, they need more opportunity and they need a raise. Our aggressive package is designed so that no working family is left behind. By putting more money into the pockets of these hardworking families, we are strengthening local economies across the state.”
“More than one million Virginians carry some student debt, and collectively they owe over $30 billion dollars in loans,” said Del. Charniele Herring of Alexandria. “High-interest loans are keeping young people from pumping money back into our economy. Every dollar paid in interest is a dollar that could have been spent on anything from the down payment of a home to a meal at a local restaurant. Allowing borrowers to re-finance these loans will enable them to spend more money in the communities where they live and work.”
“No one who works 40 hours per week should live in poverty, which is why it’s time to raise the minimum wage,” said Del. Ken Plum of Reston. “I challenge anyone to argue that it’s possible to support a family on $15,000 a year, which is why I’ve introduced legislation to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 and to index it for future increases. I hope my colleagues across the aisle will join us in standing up for working families and supporting this bill. Legislatures in 29 other states have raised the minimum wage; there is no reason we cannot.”
“There were thousands of open tech jobs last year, including in fields such as cyber-security,” said Del. Matthew James of Portsmouth. “If we want businesses to stay in Virginia, we need a trained workforce who can fill those jobs. The bill I’ve introduced will require community colleges to grant credits for real-life apprenticeship experience. This will reduce student loan debt while also making these students more marketable to employers.”
“As we work to raise wages and train workers for higher-paying jobs, we must also ensure that all Virginians are given a fair shot to actively participate in our economy,” said Del. Jennifer Boysko of Herndon. “In the year 2017, women still make 79 cents on the dollar to men. I’ve introduced legislation that will require the Commonwealth of Virginia to institute a system to ensure that state employees are receiving equal pay for equal work, and I’ve also introduced a bill that will prohibit employers from inquiring about salary history. That bill will help level the playing field for folks like me who have worked hard for years as both a stay-at-home mom and a public servant.”
“In order to attract more companies to Virginia, we need to send a message loud and clear that Virginia is open for business and we do not discriminate,” said Del. Mark Sickles of Fairfax County. “We’ve come a long way since amending our Constitution to ban same-sex marriage in 2006, and it’s time we take those laws off the books.”
Other key economic legislation introduced by House Democrats includes:
- A bill to cut red tape and streamline the application process for small businesses
- A bill to increase economic development in the aerospace sector
- A bill to provide paid family leave to help workers care for sick relatives
- A bill to prevent employment discrimination against women and the LGBT community
- A bill to study workforce development opportunities for high school students in high-demand fields.
A more detailed overview of the House Democratic Caucus’s legislative priorities in their entirety will be released tomorrow.
Photos from the press conference are available on the Virginia House Democrats' Twitter feed. Video from the press conference will be posted to the Virginia House Democratic Caucus’s Facebook later today.