A Northern Virginia lawmaker is hoping to help two factions hit especially hard by the recession -- college graduates and small-business owners -- by bringing them together.
Five months before the General Assembly convenes, Del. Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, filed legislation that would create a tax credit for small businesses that hire recent graduates of a Virginia public college. For every new, full-time position created and filled with a Virginia graduate, the company would receive a $2,500 tax credit.
"I've heard from students the difficulty in finding employment because of the economy and I think small businesses are the cornerstone of our economy," Herring said. "I wanted to help both."
Virginia's unemployment rate among residents between 20 and 24 years of age was 13.2 percent last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, twice the state's overall jobless rate of 6.2 percent. Nationwide, the unemployment rate last year for those aged between 20 and 24 with a four-year college degree was 9.8 percent, slightly higher than the overall national jobless rate of 8.9 percent at the time.
It's not clear what Herring's bill would cost the state because the fiscal analysis hasn't been done yet. But she's arguing that the impact will be minimal if it spurs creation of more jobs.
"If you're hiring more people, there are more payroll taxes, so we have more revenue," she said.
Herring said the bill is being well received, but Virginia lawmakers are reluctant to enact new tax credits after a legislative audit found the state gave up millions in potential tax revenue without any proof that the breaks produced the desired results.
Herring filed a similar bill at this year's legislative session, but lawmakers put off action on it. She's reintroducing it now in time for the 2013 election-year session.
Herring isn't the only lawmaker getting a jump-start on the 2013 session.
Del. Dickie Bell, R-Staunton, introduced legislation to embed the state's right-to-work laws into the state constitution.
Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, submitted a bill that would allow casinos to open in her hometown and in Lexington, the only two Virginia communities where more than 40 percent of the real estate is exempt from local property taxes. There are a lot of Virginia license plates in the casino parking lots of Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey, she said, and Virginia is missing out on a moneymaker that could pay for road projects.
Maryland also is considering expanding gambling. Gov. Martin O'Malley called a special session to consider adding a casino in Prince George's County and allowing table games at existing casinos.
"Because [Republicans] don't have an appetite or the will to impose a sales tax or fees to prop up transportation, they have got to think this is one good alternative to raising taxes," Lucas said. "How many options are there? Just look at how casinos have helped prop up other states."