(The Center Square) – While education has been in the spotlight in Virginia’s race for governor, voters have consistently listed jobs and the economy as important issues in the race between Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin and Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe.
The two candidates have opposing views on the current trajectory of the economy. McAuliffe, who served as Governor of the Commonwealth between 2014 and 2018, touted his record and said Democratic policies have led to economic growth and job creation. Youngkin, in turn, said those policies had caused Virginia to grow slower than some of its neighbors and called for more economic freedom to improve the state’s bottom line.
According to the Virginia Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission, the state’s growth in three main categories is significantly below the national average over the past decade. In terms of gross domestic product, per capita income, and labor force, Virginia’s growth was below two-thirds of the national average. These figures cover the administrations of Bob McDonnell, McAuliffe and Ralph Northam. Despite this, the Commonwealth was ranked as the best state to do business in CNBC’s 2019 and 2021 rankings and was able to secure some investment from companies, such as Amazon. The state has also consistently recorded unemployment rates below the national average in recent years.
Youngkin campaigned for tax cuts, including the elimination of the sales tax on groceries, the suspension of the five-cent increase on gasoline taxes and the use of excess revenue government to offer Virginians a one-time tax refund of $ 300. He also said the state needs to diversify its energy sector to avoid future California power outages and ensure the state retains its right to work protections. It has also gained approval from the National Federation of Independent Businesses, Builders and Associate Contractors and the Virginia Contractor Procurement Alliance, which represent the interests of small business in the Commonwealth.
McAuliffe’s economic plans have largely focused on investments in education, workforce training and small businesses. He said he would support paid sick leave, affordable child care and risk premiums and raise the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour. The former governor also said his plan to accelerate the shutdown of carbon-producing energy sources and increase investment in green energy will create jobs. He also supports ending Virginia’s labor rights protections, but said it would not be a priority because it is unlikely to pass. McAuliffe has obtained several union approvals.
Youngkin accused McAuliffe of supporting a big government approach that would cost the average Virginia family $ 5,400 during his tenure, based on a Thomas Jefferson Institute analysis. McAuliffe, however, said he had no plans to raise taxes. McAuliffe alleged that Youngkin’s tax cut plans would force the state to cut spending and lead to underfunding of schools. However, Youngkin said his education plan would be the biggest education investment in Virginia history.
Election day is Tuesday. Voting begins at 6 a.m. and continues until 7 p.m., but voters will be able to vote as long as they line up before the deadline.