Legislation introduced to improve Virginia Tobacco Commission
Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced his support Friday for legislation introduced in the Virginia General Assembly, which would aim to improve the Virginia Tobacco Commission. The commision provides formerly tobacco-dependent communities with money to promote economic development.
The bipartisan legislation is sponsored by Commission Chairman Terry Kilgore (R-Gate City) and Commission Vice-Chairman Frank Ruff (R-Clarksville).
“The Tobacco Region as a whole, and especially Southern Virginia, faces more significant economic, educational, healthcare and workforce challenges than any other part of the commonwealth,” Ruff said in a statement. “The Commission has made substantial positive investments to address these challenges, and this legislation will help us in our efforts to diversify the economy and position the region for economic growth.”
The legislation would reduce the number of commission members from 31 to 25; establish an online database of commission awards with project goals and increase accountability for outcomes from commission investments.
The proposal also aims to:
• Create the Tobacco Region Revolving Loan Fund to make loans to local governments to finance or refinance the cost of a project with an identifiable revenue stream from which the loan may be repaid.
• Lower the cap on annual corpus invasion. Require a dollar for dollar match for economic development grant awards. Performance bonds are acceptable matching funds.
• Codify a biannual comprehensive strategic plan process with specific priorities, measureable goals and quantifiable outcomes including input from local and regional economic developers, planning commissions, VEDP, DHCD, VTC, VRA and the Center for Rural Virginia.
• Establish a viability manager to determine financial viability and review project feasibility for distribution of monies from the Commission Fund.
• Require 60 percent of members to have expertise in business, economic development, investment banking, finance or education.