Entries in Virginia (9)


Virginia Lawmakers Want Their Own Currency, But Don’t Bet on It

Nick M Do/Getty Images(RICHMOND, Va.) -- Will Virginia start minting its own currency? It’s an idea worth considering, according to the state’s House of Delegates.

The lower chamber passed a bill on Monday to study the possibility. The legislation, proposed by Manassas Republican Del. Robert Marshall, would create a new joint subcommittee made up of lawmakers, plus two outside experts, to “study the feasibility of a metallic-based monetary unit.”

The committee could spend up to $17,440 and would present its recommendations before the legislative session starts in 2014.

Translation: Ten people would advise Virginia on whether to start making its own currency on a gold or silver standard.

It’s not the first time Marshall has proposed such legislation.  Versions of this bill have been floating around since 2011.  Its preamble is rife with damnations of the Federal Reserve and its “unprecedented monetary policy actions” and “activist intervention in banking and credit markets” -- the point being that Virginia can no longer trust federal fiat money, and might need “a more stable money unit consistent with limited government.”

The heavily Republican House of Delegates passed it 65 to 32 on Monday.

While the prospect of a state-based Virginia currency may sound intriguing, and potentially destabilizing, it’s not likely to happen.  The bill now moves to the state Senate, which is less likely to approve.  Virginia’s upper chamber is evenly split between 20 Republicans and 20 Democrats.

The response from Republican leadership has been lukewarm.

“Although I cannot express confidence in the legislation’s prospects as of this writing, I might note we are prepared in the event of a Virginia currency being approved,” said Jeff Ryer, spokesman for the Virginia Senate GOP caucus.

The Marshall proposal, well known to some in the Virginia legislature, was gently mocked at the annual Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association dinner in 2011, where wooden coins bearing Marshall’s face surfaced.

No one has publicly taken credit for the coins, according to a Virginia source.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Virginia Court Rules Customer Can Post Bad Online Review

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you feel like a business did you wrong, your online bad review should stand, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday.

Virginia resident Jane Perez claims she had problems with Dietz Development LLC and wrote on Yelp and Angie's List that the company stole items from her, among other things.

After the contractor sued Perez for $750,000, alleging that her bad reviews cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars, a judge in Fairfax County Circuit Court ordered Perez to edit her comments and forbade her from future posts.

However, the American Civil Liberties Union and Public Citizen stepped in on behalf of Perez and argued successfully before the high court that her free speech rights had been violated under the First Amendment and Virginia law.

The lawsuit against Perez is still pending and the contractor can try to convince a court that her comments were untrue and unwarranted.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Top Six States Facing Major Financial Stress

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A new report by the State Budget Crisis Task Force paints a chilling picture of what's ahead for U.S. states, even long after the 2008 recession officially ended.

The pessimistic analysis identifies major threats to fiscal sustainability, including out-of-control Medicaid spending; reductions in federal state-aid; underfunded state retirement plans; an eroding tax base; and laws that allow states to use gimmicks to hide their fiscal troubles.

The co-chairs of the Task Force -- former Fed chairman Paul Volker and former New York State Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch -- say state governments are coping with the "unprecedented challenges" in their attempt to keep providing "established levels of service with uncertain and constrained resources."  States' ability to continue to meet their obligations to their own employees, to their creditors and to their citizens, say the chairmen, "is threatened."

The report's recommendations include the following:

  • Reduce budget gimmickry.  States should, for example, replace cash-based budgeting with modified accrual budgets, so that legislators and the public can see how revenues earned in any given fiscal year relate to obligations incurred in the same year.
  • Enact forecasts and plans that extend at least four years into the future; encourage independent review of these forecasts.
  • Strengthen state 'rainy-day' funds.  Examples of successful funds, such as those created by Texas and Virginia, should be copied by other states.
  • State pension systems need to account more clearly for the risks they assume and for the potential shortfalls they face.  States should create mechanisms to ensure that required contributions are paid.
  • The federal government should shore up states' eroding tax bases by making it easier for states to collect taxes on goods and services sold over the Internet.

The report examines in particular the health of six states -- California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Virginia -- because, say its authors, these account for more than a third of the nation's population and almost 40 cents out of every dollar spent by state and local government.

Here's a sampling of the challenges facing these six states, which the report says face major threats to their ability to provide basic services:

1. Illinois -- Medicaid Spending
Medicaid, says the report, is the single biggest spending category in most states' budgets and is growing faster than both the economy and state tax revenues.  If trends of the past decade continue, the gap between Medicaid spending and state tax revenue growth will increase by at least $22 billion annually within five years.  Illinois, by the end of the current year, will face accumulated unpaid Medicaid bills estimated to total $1.9 billion.

2. New York -- Reduced Federal Aid to States
When the federal government gets around to taking significant steps to reduce its budget deficit, predicts the report, "such action could wreak havoc on the states."  Even a 10 percent cut in federal aid would cost states a collective $60 billion, the equivalent of eliminating all states' spending on libraries, parks and recreation.  Such a cut would cost New York and California more than $6 billion each, but New York's cut per capita ($316.5) would be highest of any of the six states.

3. California -- Underfunded Retirement
Under current actuarial assumptions, says the report, state and local government pension funds are underfunded by approximately $1 trillion.  Despite that shortfall, California and other states have continued to sweeten pension benefits, some retroactively, on the basis of assumptions that in hindsight were too optimistic.  California's unfunded liability, based on the current market value of its fund's assets, is greatest of the six states: $135.8 billion.  Illinois is next, at $92.5 billion.

4. Texas -- Eroding Tax Base
The report calls states' sales tax revenues "volatile and eroding."  Reasons include a nationwide shift in consumer spending away from goods toward more lightly-taxed services.  An increase in cars' fuel efficiency has reduced revenue from fuel taxes.  Texas' situation is complicated by the fact that it has no income tax, and so relies "far more heavily" on the sales taxes than do most states.  Sales taxes, says the report, have been diminishing relative to the economy.  "A 1 percent change in personal income now produces only about an estimated 0.7-0.8 percent increase in sales tax revenue," the report says.

5. Virginia -- Local Government Fiscal Stress
"Fiscal stress rolls downhill," says the report.  Suffering states have tried to pass their troubles down to cities, towns and counties -- for example, by cutting aid to primary and secondary education.  Such moves, however, result in no net reduction of a state's fiscal stress: The pea is just hidden under a different walnut-shell.  While laws in some states prevent local governments from raising property tax rates to offset those housing-bust declines in value, Virginia's towns and cities can raise taxes all they want, and some are doing so.  What good is achieved?  Says the report: "This kind of compensating mechanism only turns potential stress for local governments into actual stress for property owners."

6. New Jersey -- Laws and Practices That Hinder Fiscal Stability

Short-term budget gimmicks, says the report, only serve to destabilize a state's long-term finances.  One of the most notorious gimmicks, it says, is capitalizing future revenues to produce a balance in a current year, borrowing cash "not just from the year ahead but from many years into the future."  An obvious way to end the practice is to put in place "a multi-year financial and capital plan linked to the annual budgeting process."  Multi-year planning has been practiced successfully by many states, says the report, but New Jersey isn't one of them: the state has no such plan in place.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Biden Blames High Gas Prices on Litany of Foreign Factors

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NORFOLK, Va.) -- Vice President Joe Biden promised students at a Virginia high school a quick explanation for why U.S. gas prices are high and still rising, but then went on for 11 minutes, delving into the complexities of the oil market and of the changes and tensions in the Middle East.

The explanation came when a student at Maury High School in Norfolk, Va., following a speech on college affordability, asked the vice president why gas prices are so high.

Biden said that the average price per gallon, which has nearly doubled under the Obama administration, is tied to a complex global oil market that has skyrocketed because of “talk about war with Iran”; fear that Iran might “take out the Saudi oil fields and Bahraini oil fields”; the Arab Spring movement; “war in Libya”; the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood; and a potential for unforeseen political unrest, such as “chaos in Russia.”

“It’s complicated. You fully understand it. I’m going to give you a brief answer, remembering that famous admonition of Samuel Clemens: He said all generalizations are false, including this one. But I’m going to give it to you as quick and as straight as I can,” Biden said before launching into 11 minutes of talking points.

“I’m treating this answer like I would if I were answering on Meet the Press so I hope I’m not offending anybody by just going straight to it,” he said, pausing halfway through.

After the speech, the Republican National Committee circulated Biden’s longwinded explanation as a “non-answer” to the question about why prices are so high, and they suggested the vice president was engaging in the kind of “loose talk of war” that the administration has recently decried.

In an interview last month with a local TV affiliate from Orlando, Fla., President Obama said, “The biggest driver of these high gas prices is speculation about possible war in the Middle East, which is why we have been trying to reduce some of the loose talk about war there.”

On Tuesday, Biden said the administration has been trying to reduce the threat of war in the region.

“We're trying to manage these outcomes in ways that will bring some stability. But the world markets don’t care about that. They just hedge the bets,” Biden said.

He also defended Obama’s record on drilling and investments in renewable energy sources, as well as his call to end billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for oil companies.

“There’s no way to get energy independent unless you do all of the above,” he said. “I get confused by our friends who don’t think we should do any of that.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


On Swing State Stop, Obama Hails Two Years of Job Gains

The White House(PRINCE GEORGE, Va.) –   President Obama Friday hailed two straight years of private-sector job growth under his administration, calling the February jobs report the latest sign “the economy is getting stronger.”

“Day by day we’re creating new jobs.  But we can’t stop there, not until everybody who’s out there pounding the pavement and sending out their resumes has a chance to land one of those jobs,” he said in a speech at a Rolls-Royce Crosspointe jet engine disc manufacturing facility in Prince George County.

The Labor Department reported Friday that employers added 233,000 jobs last month, and revised figures of the reported job gains in January up by 41,000 and by 20,000 for December.

“The key now, our job now, is to keep this economic engine churning,” Obama said. “We can’t go back to the same policies that got us into this mess.”

The burst of positive economic news added to Obama’s swagger as he toured the factory, located just south of Richmond. He also addressed supporters before heading south for two campaign fundraisers set to net at least $2.8 million for the 2012 campaign.

In his speech, Obama highlighted a new $1 billion proposal – part of his 2013 budget blueprint -- to create a series of regional manufacturing institutes aimed at linking manufacturers and academic experts to make the U.S. more competitive.

He also touted a broad resurgence in the American manufacturing sector, which he has made a major plank in the argument that his economic plan is working, especially in key manufacturing states.

Manufacturers added nearly 400,000 jobs since Obama took office, completing the first full year of consecutive job gains since 1997.

“This facility is part of the evidence of what is going on around the country,” Obama told the crowd. “When I come to places like this and see the work that is getting done, it gives me confidence that better days are ahead.”

Friday’s jobs news, which reverberated across the political spectrum, included a mix of accolades for Obama.

The leader of the nation’s largest union, Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO, hailed it as a “tribute to the leadership of the President.” SEIU president Mary Kay Henry said the numbers mean “we must redouble our efforts to re-elect President Obama.”

But Republicans, while welcoming the job gains, highlighted the nation’s persistently high unemployment rate -- which was unchanged last month at 8.3 percent -- and the 12.8 million Americans still looking for work, according to government statistics.

“Millions of families continue to feel the pain of the sluggish Obama economy and the rising cost of gas, groceries and health care,” said Republican National Committee chairman Reince Preibus in a statement.

As the November election nears, voters in swing states like Virginia will weigh the trend lines on jobs against those other economic pressures.

The latest polls in Virginia, which Obama carried with 52.6 percent of the vote four years ago, show a bright horizon for the president.

Seventy-eight percent of Virginia voters in the most recent Marist/NBC poll believe economic conditions will either stay the same or get better over the year ahead, while just 19 percent believe the next 12 months will mean more bad economic news.

“I thought it would take him a lot longer to get where he was now,” said James Hubbard, Jr., 60, a Virginia native.  “I’m pleased with the fact that he’s starting to turn things around earlier.”

Said Karen Saunders of Chester, Va., “Hopefully… there are more jobs coming. I think he’s done a lot, actually, but I think there’s more that needs to be done.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Marriott Millionaire's Son Wins $107 Million in Virginia Lotto

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(HERNDON, Va.) -- Some people have all the luck. Brian McCarthy, son of millionaire Marriott executive Robert McCarthy, can add an extra $107 million to his family fortune from the Virginia lottery.

The 25-year-old bachelor bought five tickets on a whim at the Herndon, Va., grocery store Giant. He had gone in to use the ATM and bought five tickets without even knowing how much the prize money was. He didn't even pick personal lucky numbers, letting the computer pick them for him.

A few days later, he checked Facebook for the winning numbers and got the surprise of a lifetime.

"I jumped out of bed, poured my wallet out and looked at the numbers and I had the ticket," McCarthy told ABC's Washington D.C. affiliate WJLA.

When McCarthy collected the money, he chose to take the lump sum instead of receiving the money in yearly payments over the course of 26 years. The lump sum totaled $68 million before taxes.

"I'd like my family to be able to enjoy it as much as I can.  And also help out some charities along the way," McCarthy said.

At the time, McCarthy was working as an account manager for Pepsi. He has since left that job.

So far, he has taken a golfing trip to Ireland, traveled to Alaska with his sister and bought a BMW M3, a car that starts at about $59,000.  As for charities, he has donated $25,000 each to two, including the Herndon Optimist Club, which helps local children.

"It's a surreal feeling. It's something that you read about in the newspaper about somebody else," the lottery winner's dad, Robert McCarthy, told WJLA. "And so when it affects you in a great way, I think [there are] a lot of good things with it, but it also comes with a serious amount of responsibility."

As group president for Marriott International, McCarthy's father oversees the finances and leadership of more than 3,500 hotels in the Americas, spanning multiple brands. He also oversees Ritz-Carlton for the corporation, according to Marriott's website.

Forbes reports that Robert McCarthy made more than $1.2 million in 2009.

The younger McCarthy's isn't the first case of the rich getting richer from the lottery. In 2008, a millionaire banker who grew up in Long Island, N.Y., won the state's first "$1 million a year for life" scratch-off game.  And, as icing on the cake, since Kenan Altunis lives in London, he does not have to pay taxes on his prize. This means he gets $931,500 a year for the rest of his life.

And in 2007, Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner won the lottery for the third time. He has won $250,000 and $1,000 twice.  He is the millionaire heir to the Kimberly-Clark fortune, which is responsible for Kleenex and Scott paper towels. He is reportedly worth more than $11 million.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Threat of Moody's Downgrade Forces States to Push Congress on Deal

Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- After Moody’s Investor Service announced it was reviewing both Maryland and Virginia for a possible downgrade from their perfect AAA credit rating, the states’ governors have ratcheted up their rhetoric demanding Congress reach a deal and avoid default.

But with a Democrat to the north and a Republican to the south, Washington’s neighbors have starkly different messages for their comrades inside the Beltway.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, head of the Democratic Governors Association, blamed the brinksmanship on the “dinosaur wing of the Republican party led by Eric Cantor” which he said is threatening to “drive us needlessly into a default.”

Meanwhile the Republican governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, places the stalemate blame on the president.

“Your new programs and spending, and unfunded state mandates, have exacerbated the problem,” McDonnell wrote in a letter to President Obama last week. “Your failure to get the job done is hurting the businesses and citizens of our Commonwealth.”

Both Governors are facing a possible smear on their state’s finances after Moody’s announced Thursday that it was considering downgrading the AAA credit rating of 162 local governments, including 15 in Virginia and five in Maryland.

Moody’s cited the states’ high concentration of federal employees and dependence on federal contracts as two reasons for their possible credit downgrade.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Winning Mega Millions Ticket Bought at Virginia Supermarket 

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(HERNDON, Va.) -- A single ticket matching all six numbers in this week's Mega Millions jackpot worth an estimated $107 million was purchased in Virginia, lottery officials said.

The winning numbers from Friday's drawing were: 12, 17, 30, 35, 47, and mega ball number 26.

The winning ticket was purchased at a Giant Food store in Herndon, Va., according to the Virginia Lottery website.

The store is expected to get a $50,000 bonus for selling the lucky ticket.

The holder of the winning ticket could choose to take the entire jackpot amount in 26 annual payments or a single cash option of an estimated $68.1 million.

Friday's jackpot is one of the largest won in 2011.

In March, several New York state government workers won a $319 mega millions jackpot; while two months prior to that, two tickets holders from Washington and Idaho split a $380 million jackpot.

The upcoming drawing on Tuesday is estimated to have a jackpot of around $12 million with a lump sum cash option of $7.6 million. It will roll over to the next drawing if there is no winner.

The biggest jackpot game in the nation, Mega Millions is played in 41 states and in Washington, D.C.

Other smaller jackpots range from $2 to $250,000, depending on how many numbers are matched.

The biggest Mega Millions jackpot ever won was $390 million in March 2007.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Massey Energy to Merge With Alpha

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(RICHMOND, Va.) -- Massey Energy, the company at the center of the April 2010 mine collapse that killed 29 men at the company’s Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, has agreed to be taken over by Abington, Va.-based Alpha Natural Resources.

The combination, valued at $8.5 billion, would award Massey stockholders 1.025 shares of Alpha common stock and $10 for each share of Massey common stock.

Stockholders from both companies still need to approve the deal before it can close.

“This transaction represents a tremendous opportunity for Massey to partner with our Central Appalachian neighbor, Alpha, to create a new industry leader,” said Massey CEO Baxter Phillips, Jr.

“We have always respected Alpha’s passion for this business and we believe this is a natural and logical combination,” Phillips said.

A combined operation would include more than 110 mines and coal reserves of approximately 5 billion tons, according to a joint press release issued Saturday.

If approved, the transaction would be on target to close mid-2011.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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