By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
RICHMOND, Va. — After years of outpacing the nation in economic growth, Virginia is sputtering. Employment is lagging, real estate is flat and the Obama administration’s War on Coal isn’t helping.
An economic forecast released Monday shows southwest Virginia’s coal country remains below the 2011 employment peak, with Lynchburg continuing to lose jobs. Bristol has recovered about half its lost jobs and Roanoke has regained just 38 percent, according to the latest statistics.
The employment outlook isn’t much better statewide. Chmura Economics and Analytics estimates Virginia employment will rise 0.6 percent, compared with an expected U.S. gain of 1.7 percent.
The tech sector continues to stumble, with jobs declining 0.8 percent from 2010-14, versus an 8.2 percent increase nationally.
Virginia’s biggest growth areas are projected to be in education and health care. Health-care spending is being fueled by defense contractors getting into field, lured by the injection of billions of Obamacare dollars.
Meantime, the administration’s War on Coal is stifling Virginia’s economy. Hundreds more of the state’s coal-mining jobs were lost in 2014 as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency moved to shut down coal-fired power plants.
Energy experts say the green-energy agenda pushed by the White House andDemocratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe won’t generate prosperity.
“Ask Germany and Spain how their commitment to renewables has worked out over the past 15 years. Spain’s economy is in a shambles. Germany is shutting down most of its offshore wind program and building coal-fired power plants as fast as possible to ward off financial disaster,” according to environmental scientists Dennis Mitchell and Willie Soon.
“Shoving immature technologies down the throats of the taxpayer is outrageous,” Mitchell and Soon argue. “Energy costs from traditional sources have been artificially and substantially raised … and no one suffers more than the poor.”
Free-market jobs — not politically rigged subsidies and regulations — are needed, says Virginia House Speaker Bill Howell.
“We will need to decrease our dependence on Washington and strengthen Virginia’s economy by creating a more favorable and competitive business climate,” said Matthew Moran, communications director for the Falmouth Republican.
Moran said Howell “believes the best way to do this is to keep taxes low, create a positive regulatory environment and strengthen Virginia’s workforce through education and training.”
A flat housing report represents another dying canary in Virginia’s mineshaft.
Building permits for single-family homes tumbled 9.1 percent in 2014, and are predicted to inch up just 0.9 percent this year.
Despite a 12.2 percent decline in home prices since 2007, Virginia is no bargain these days. A Tax Foundation study showed state and local taxes make Virginia one of the 10 most expensive states in which to live.
Mike Thompson, president of the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, which commissioned the Chmura report, said the economic forecast “shows that Virginia needs to move away from such heavy reliance on federal government spending.”
“Government policies, regulations and taxes can surely inhibit economic growth, and that is what we are seeing today,” Thompson told Watchdog.org “The correct policies can encourage growth, and we need to move in that direction quickly and creatively.”