Republicans control the Virginia legislature, but their majority is thin – only two seats in each chamber. Democrats are well-positioned to flip both houses on November 5, IF we really work at it. We have a Democratic governor, and with Democratic majorities in both halves of the General Assembly, Virginia could begin to address the important problems confronting our state, problems the Republican majority has ignored or even exacerbated.
One critical issue for which a Democratic General Assembly would make a difference is income inequality. Now at its highest level since the 1920s, the growing gap between the richest and poorest Americans contributes to our deepening social divisions. To strengthen our nation and in the interest of fundamental fairness, we need to reduce income inequality.
Regressive tax structures in most states, including Virginia, actually make inequality worse. In the most recent year for which statistics are available, Virginians in the lowest 20% by income paid nearly 10%of their income in state taxes of some kind, while the wealthiest 1% paid only 7%of their much higher income to the state.
Governor Northam attempted to address this problem in his 2018 budget proposal, which sought to allocate $300 million to rebates or tax reductionsfor Virginia families earning less than $54,000 annually, the state’s median income. His plan was designed to mitigate the inequality-worsening effects of the 2017 Trump federal tax cut, which heavily favored large corporations and the very wealthiest. The Republican majority in the House of Delegates rejected Northam’s proposal, preferring to use to the money in a way that favored Virginians earning at least $125,000 per year, that is, Virginians in the top 20% by income. The contrast between the parties’ policies could not be starker – one wants to assist those with below-median incomes while the other wants to further enrich the most comfortable among us. Clearly, Virginia will make little progress in reducing income inequality as long as Republicans control the General Assembly.
Many other core Democratic programs – making reliable, affordable health insurance available to all, strengthening affordable public education from preschool through vocational and graduate schools, and promoting real equal opportunity for all – would also reduce the effects of income inequality. Each of these programs, and especially all of them combined, would make Virginia a stronger, healthier, and fairer place.
Help flip both houses of the General Assembly this November.