Virginia and Hampton Roads news and notes
Governor Ralph Northam today recognized January 20, 2020, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day in the Commonwealth of Virginia and issued a proclamation celebrating his legacy. The governor made the following remarks this morning at the 42nd annual Community Leaders Breakfast honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., hosted by Virginia Union University: “It’s important to make sure that everyone understands what Dr. King was fighting against — the deep-rooted discrimination and oppression that he and so many others, like the Richmond 34, were working to overturn. We must ensure we are telling the full and true story of that history, from slavery through Reconstruction, and the terrors of the Jim Crow era, and the Civil Rights movement. And we must realize that black oppression continues today, just in a different form, and we must work to address it.”
Food company invests $25 million in Lynchburg
Flowers Foods, one of the nation’s largest producers of packaged baked foods, will invest $25 million to expand and transform its Lynchburg bakery into an organic facility, maybe creating up to 15 new jobs. The bakery, which the company has operated for more than 40 years, will serve the Mid-Atlantic market. Founded in 1919, Flowers Foods is a publicly-traded company with sales of $4 billion in 2018. Headquartered in Thomasville, Ga., the company operates 46 bakeries in 18 states, with more than 9,700 employees. Among the company’s top brands are Nature’s Own, Wonder, Dave’s Killer Bread, and Tastykake. The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with the city of Lynchburg and Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance to secure the project for Virginia. Governor Ralph Northam approved a $250,000 performance-based grant from the Virginia Investment Partnership program, an incentive available to existing companies, to assist Lynchburg with the project. The company is also eligible to receive state benefits from the Virginia Enterprise Zone Program, administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.
State joins Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
Virginia leaders recently introduced plans to improve and expand the state’s rail network and legislation to cut the state’s carbon emissions by encouraging energy efficiency, rooftop solar, and joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The rail agreement, between Virginia, Amtrak, and freight rail provider CSX, includes doubling capacity at a notorious bottleneck and the state taking ownership of hundreds of miles of track and rail right-of-way to facilitate expanded service. A key component of the initiative will be much more frequent passenger rail service between Richmond and D.C., which is projected to reduce traffic and vehicle emissions on the notoriously clogged stretch of I-95 between the two capitals. By comparison, a recent Virginia analysis found that adding new lanes to I-95 would be prohibitively expensive and do very little to address rush-hour congestion. Another stretch of rail right-of-way to be acquired by Virginia could host high speed rail from Richmond to Raleigh, while an additional rail line to be acquired could be a key component of a new east-west rail service SELC proposed in a report it co-authored in September. Earlier in the day, a group of legislators and supporters announced the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which aims to tackle climate pollution from the utility sector by getting Virginia to a 100 percent carbon-free electricity grid and eliminating emissions by Virginia’s utilities by 2050. It would also realize the goal of making Virginia an official member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI. The bill is the result of a multi-month process where the conservation community worked together with the clean energy community to create a bill that works to ensure no community bears a disproportionate impact in the transition away from fossil fuels. It has built-in protections for consumers, will create good-quality, well-paying jobs, and will make Virginia a leader in the fight against climate change. The Southern Environmental Law Center provided this information.
State general funds grow
Virginia’s total general fund revenues rose 7.6 percent in December, driven by growth in payroll withholding, sales and use taxes, and tax collections. On a fiscal year-to-date basis, total revenue collections rose 8.3 percent through December, well ahead of the annual forecast of 1.9 percent growth.
Collections of payroll withholding taxes rose 9.2 percent in December, with an additional deposit day compared with last year. Collections of sales and use taxes, reflecting November sales, rose 5.1 percent in December. November represents the beginning of the holiday shopping season and this year had fewer shopping days after Thanksgiving than last year.
Collections of wills, suits, deeds, and contracts, mainly recordation tax collections, were $40.4 million in December, compared with $32 million in December of last year.
December is a significant month for corporate income tax collections as quarterly estimated payments are due for most corporations and refunds from extension returns are processed. With the main refunding season completed and the first two estimated payments received, collections of corporate income taxes grew 19.2 percent on a year-to-date basis, compared with the forecast of 2.2 percent growth.
Fiscal-year-to-date, payroll withholding collections have grown 5.8 percent, well ahead of the annual estimate of 4.7 percent growth. Collections of sales and use taxes have risen 8.1 percent, ahead of the annual estimate of 6.0 percent growth and tax collections are up 29.0 percent, far ahead of the annual forecast of 13.2 percent growth. On a fiscal year-to-date basis, total revenue collections rose 8.3 percent through December, well ahead of the annual forecast of 1.9 percent growth.
Norfolk working to get gambling casino
“I am pleased to announce that we have reached mutually agreeable terms with the Pamunkey Indian Tribe to pursue a resort project that will conform and comply with commercial gaming legislation being considered in Virginia,” said Norfolk City Manager Larry Filer. “I want to thank Mayor Alexander for his direction and members of council for their patience and support. We look forward to the legislative outcomes in Richmond that will ultimately determine the size and scope of our resort casino project; staff analysis of the gaming market; insights from the gaming committee; and the outcome from Norfolk voters when they go to the polls in November to vote on the gaming referendum." - January 13, 2020.