State Senator Creigh Deeds Meets with Highland Entities
Representatives from the major leadership and education entities in Highland County came together last Thursday to meet with State Senator Creigh Deeds, who represents both Bath and Highland Counties in the 25th District. In attendance were the Highland Board of Supervisors, and representatives from the school board, school administration, the Monterey Town Council and the EDA. Also present was teacher Joyce Ralston and her class of government students, to observe the process.
Supervisors Chair David Blanchard opened the meeting with an explanation of the purpose, and turned it over to the Senator for opening remarks.
“This is really just an informal meeting, just to have the Senator give us an update on the things, the occurrences in Richmond, and with the upcoming session looming over us, and for us to sort of express our concerns of the goings-on, and there are some. So, to start it off, I’ll turn it over to the Senator.”
“Things are looking a little bit better – the revenue has increased a little bit this year, but my concern is that’s just temporary. Sequestration at the Federal lever – we’re more dependent on Federal spending than any other state. When people call for a reduction in Federal spending, you better think about what you wish for, because it affects jobs and revenue in Virginia.
“The two richest parts of the state, Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, are rich because the Federal government made them rich, because of defense contracting and military spending. We’ve always had a little buffer against recession because of Federal spending, but that buffer is disappearing, and that affects us in two ways. Number one, we’re always on the scout, on the lookout for new jobs, for people that want to employ people. All of a sudden, we’re competing with two other parts of the state that have thousands of trained workers. They have thousands of assets to offer that we just can’t. So the competition for those jobs is tougher.
“And the second thing – I’ve been involved in the General Assembly for 24 years – and ever since I’ve been there, the places in the state that paid the most in terms of revenue, that have fed every function of state government, from roads to schools to everything else, have been Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. So when they suffer, we all suffer – it puts pressure on the rest of us.
“We’ve had a slight uptick in the economy, and that gives us a little more flexibility in this budget year. Does that mean that long term things are looking good? We still are in really choppy waters, as the economy changes. And I suspect we are going to be going through something for the next 10 or 15 years.
“In 75 years, the economy changed from one that was dependent on textiles and manufacturing, and natural resources, tobacco and coal, to one that’s service oriented, dominated by military spending, Northern Virginia, and Hampton Roads. And now we’re getting ready to change again, and we just have to figure out how we can best fit into whatever it’s going to change to.
“Governors propose and the General Assembly disposes of the budget, The governor, next week, will introduce a budget, and it will contain a substantial increase for education. It’s hard to figure out how that’s going to wind its way to Monterey. But I suspect it’s going to be more than half a billion dollars for the state, for new spending in education. The governor just kind of laid out the outline of a two and a half billion dollar bond issue. It’s not going to be general obligation, it’s just going to be through the budget. And I’m hopeful we can find a way to benefit Highland County in that.
“The fiscal stuff will be what dominates the legislative session, I think – the long term implications of the economic changes we’re going through, and then this bond issue. That’s kind of where we are – I’ll be glad to answer any questions or try to address your concerns.”
Stay tuned this week for more from the meeting, including discussions on education, budgeting, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and a state park in Highland County.