In the 2018 State of the Commonwealth Report, Robert M. McNab, Director of the Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy in the Strome College of Business at Old Dominion University, analyzes the Virginia economy and assesses its future progress. This year’s report highlights the acceleration of Virginia’s economy and discusses whether there are storm clouds on the horizon that threatens future economic growth. The report also examines the growth of Virginia’s metropolitan regions, including Charlottesville, Hampton Roads, Lynchburg, Richmond, and the Washington, DC metropolitan area. We also examine whether Virginia’s “King’s Dominion” law, which prohibits K-12 public schools from opening before labor day unless the schools obtain a waiver, impacts students learning or economic outcomes. The report also estimates the impact of Medicaid expansion, including how Medicaid expansion is likely to improve a host of economic outcomes but may also increase long-term fiscal risk. Lastly, the report discusses the taxation of alcohol in the Commonwealth and whether Virginia’s is competitive when it comes to alcohol taxation.

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Key Points

The 2018 report is divided into six parts:

Virginia Breezes Along, but Are There Storm Clouds on the Horizon?

After an anemic recovery from the Great Recession and sequestration, Virginia’s economy picked up the pace in 2018 and is likely to continue to improve in 2019. We should not, however, grow complacent. There are storm clouds on the horizon. The challenge now is to continue to enact wise policies to foster and sustain economic growth while preparing for the next eventual downturn.

Moving Forward

Growth Improves for Virginia’s Metropolitan Areas 2017 was the first year since 2006 that each of Virginia’s metropolitan areas exhibited positive economic growth from the preceding year. The uneven economic performance of Virginia’s metros cannot easily be attributed to one specific factor. The challenge is how to stimulate development among all of the Commonwealth’s metro areas.

The Promise and Peril of Medicaid Expansion for the Commonwealth of Virginia

Virginia will expand Medicaid, a health insurance program for low-income adults and children, on Jan. 1, 2019. Medicaid expansion will reduce the number of uninsured, allow Medicaid recipients to work more and offer health care providers a measure of relief with regard to uncompensated care costs. The future costs of expansion, however, remain uncertain.

A Commonwealth Coming Together or Growing Apart?

We shed light on the diversities of circumstances and outcomes that exist in today’s Virginia. The distributions of income and wealth in the Commonwealth provide important information about the extent to which there is a shared economic destiny.

Much Ado About Nothing? Virginia’s “Kings Dominion Law”

In 1986, Virginia passed into law a requirement that public schools could not open until after Labor Day unless they met specific conditions for a waiver. In 2017, over 50 percent of Virginia elementary, middle and high school students attended schools that opened prior to Labor Day. We ask whether there is evidence to support the commonly offered arguments for and against the Virginia “Kings Dominion law.”

Sin Taxes and Alcohol Consumption in Virginia

How does the Commonwealth tax alcohol? We look at the taxation of beer, wine and distilled spirits and the role of Virginia’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority. We investigate whether levying taxes on alcohol is an appropriate method of raising revenue.


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