2012 Commentary: Virginia's Leaders Should Focus on Three Key Issues in the Coming Months

ABSTRACT: Virginia’s elected officials should focus their efforts on three key issues over the next year. These issues revolve around the fiscal cliff, the state's health insurance exchange, and the 2013 gubernatorial election.

Virginia's elected officials should focus their efforts on three key issues over the next year. Perhaps most importantly, they must plan ahead in case the fiscal cliff scenario becomes a reality. Additionally, the governor and state delegates need to work together to create a blueprint for Virginia's health insurance exchange. They also need to pass legislation to ensure that the 2013 gubernatorial election runs smoothly.

Plan for the Fiscal Cliff

The president and Congress have until Jan. 1 to broker a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff -- a series of preset tax increases and budget cuts. If they are unable to reach an agreement, the federal government's 2013 budget will be cut by approximately $109 billion. The cuts will hit Virginia hard; federal spending accounts (directly or indirectly) for around 33 percent of the state's economy. A George Mason professor estimates that more than 207,000 Virginian workers will lose their jobs in 2013 if the federal cutbacks occur. Virginia's elected officials have begun to prepare for this event. They have set aside $30 million, which can be used to help citizens impacted by the fiscal cliff, and the governor has asked state agencies to prepare in advance for federal cutbacks. However, Virginia's elected officials should devote even more attention to this issue in the coming weeks.

Draft a Blueprint for the Health Insurance Exchange

The Affordable Care Act mandates that states, including Virginia, need to have operational health insurance exchanges in place by 2014. In 2011, Virginia passed a law declaring its intent to create an exchange. However, the governor has so far refused to work with state delegates to finalize a blueprint for the exchange. State officials have to submit this plan to federal authorities soon if they want Virginia, and not the U.S. government, to run the state's health insurance exchange when it becomes operational in 2014.

Ensure the 2013 Gubernatorial Election Runs Smoothly

Many Virginians waited in long lines to cast their votes in the most recent election. They also had to deal with issues relating to the new state voter I.D. law. Virginia officials need to work to correct these problems before the gubernatorial election on Nov. 5. They have a number of options open to them, including hiring more election-day workers and adjusting absentee voting rules.

-- Anthony Hopper

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