In Virginia’s ever changing economy, too many working Virginians continue to struggle to make a living. Jennifer has worked to ensure economic opportunity for all working Virginians and help Virginia’s economy adapt to changes in the marketplace to create jobs in new and growing industries.
Protecting and Growing Virginia Jobs
For several years, Virginia’s ranking by Forbes Magazine as the best state for business kept Virginia from hurting too much as the national economy declined. However, Virginia’s economic prosperity depends on its ability to adapt to changes in the marketplace and foster new and growing industries. Jennifer has worked to protect and grow Virginia jobs and foster new industries in Virginia by
- Sponsoring legislation making Virginia the third state to authorize benefit corporations, a new corporate structure that meets the needs of the growing number of entrepreneurs and investors who seek to use business as a tool to solve social and environmental problems;
- Sponsoring legislation to jumpstart the “crowdfunding” industry in Virginia by expressly authorizing investments made through an online general solicitation, online broker, or a funding portal eligible for state tax credits, so long as the investment otherwise meets all requirements for earning the particular tax credit;
- Supporting legislation to encourage economic development in the Commonwealth.
Reducing Tax Burdens
Virginia’s tax system was created for an 18th century agrarian economy. Most localities do not have any other means of revenue than property taxes, leaving much of the tax burden on homeowners. Too often, working Virginians are left to bear too much of the tax burden as well. Jennifer has worked for fair tax policies that do not overburden working Virginians by:
- Sponsoring legislation to reduce real estate tax burdens on senior and disabled homeowners by increasing eligibility for tax exemptions;
- Co-sponsoring legislation taking over 140,000 low-income Virginians off the tax rolls by increasing the filing thresholds for the state income tax for individuals and married couples and increasing the personal exemption; and
- Supporting a homestead exemption constitutional amendment permitting localities to exempt up to 20 percent of the value of owner-occupied homes from taxation.
Expanding Unemployment Assistance
To help those who lost their jobs in the Great Recession, Jennifer fought to expand Virginia’s unemployment compensation program to spouses of active duty military personnel who leave their job to accompany their spouse to a new assignment. Jennifer also led the fight on the House floor to accept $125 million in federal stimulus money to expand unemployment compensation to part-time workers who are actively looking for part time work and certain individuals in approved job re-training programs. Jennifer successfully sponsored legislation to end the Social Security offset of unemployment benefits for out-of-work seniors 62 and older.
Protecting Homeowners from Foreclosure
As Virginia’s foreclosure rates increased during the Great Recession, hard-working Virginians were forced out of their homes. Many of these foreclosures, particularly in minority communities, resulted from subprime mortgages. Jennifer has worked to protect homeowners from foreclosure by
- Sponsoring legislation to restore trust in lending by adding a layer of necessary accountability to the mortgage lending process by requiring mortgage brokers to use reasonable skill, care, and diligence in exercising a newly created duty to make reasonable efforts to secure a mortgage loan that is in the best interests of the applicant, considering the applicant’s circumstances and loan characteristics.
- Supporting legislation requiring high-risk mortgage lenders or servicers to provide advanced notice before accelerating a loan balance to and provide borrowers time to avoid foreclosure.
Increasing Wages and Curbing Predatory Lending
While the cost of living has increased 27 percent over the past 10 years, many wages have not kept pace. As a result, too many working Virginians are living below the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Jennifer has supported efforts to increase wages by co-sponsoring legislation increasing the minimum wage and supporting efforts to increase state employee, teacher, and higher education faculty salaries. Jennifer has also worked to ensure working Virginians can keep their wages without falling victim to predatory lending practices by seeking meaningful reform of the payday lending industry.