To ensure economic opportunity for everyone – no matter who you are, no matter where you live, a level playing field must exist between men and women. Ralph Northam is committed to making this a reality in Virginia because what’s good for women is good for our entire commonwealth.
Ensuring that women are paid the same as men is a moral and economic imperative. Currently, women are paid 78 cents on the dollar compared to men, yet they are the primary breadwinners in 38 percent of Virginia families. As governor, Ralph will fight for a law to make salary information more transparent, so women can fight discriminatory pay practices when they occur, rather than after the fact. It’s 2017 and well past time we got this done.
Childcare is a huge burden on families, and those that cannot afford it are being left behind. If one family has the means to send their child to pre-K and another does not, that begins the divide between the “haves” and the “have nots” in our communities. Ralph will continue efforts to make childcare more affordable. This would go a long way towards reducing inequality through quality education and affordable childcare, bringing enormous long-term benefits to the commonwealth through increased consumer spending, a more skilled workforce, and higher wage growth.
The private sector is making the connection between a healthy workforce and access to early childhood education, health screenings, and school nutrition. As governor, Ralph will work with it to increase access for all of Virginia’s children.
Paid Family Leave
Paid family leave reduces infant mortality and increases the number of well-baby care visits and vaccinations. Economically, it reduces turnover and training costs for businesses, and women see faster wage increases when they go back to work and stay with the same employer. Overall, the economy will see fewer families on public assistance and more people working, which will produce economic gains and generate a larger tax base.
Paid family leave is a crucial component of fighting inequality. Low-income workers are both less likely to receive paid leave and less likely to know it is an option. Even if they do have family leave options, it is often unpaid, and few low-wage workers can give up a paycheck to take advantage of it.
Both Republicans and Democrats understand paid family leave is an integral part of bringing fairness back to our economy. We can make this a reality by providing businesses incentives to offer paid family leave to their employees. This will help Virginia businesses compete for top talent and maintain the talented workforce we have in Virginia.
We can start by offering a tax credit to make it affordable for small businesses to allow full-time employees to take at least eight workweeks of paid parental leave.
Cut college costs
Too many Virginia students still can’t afford to attend our public colleges and universities. We need to ensure that any qualified Virginia student can access these institutions. Students should not have to shoulder the burden of large tuition increases, and every student should have an option to go without oppressive debt.
Invest in STEAM and expand computer science
Virginia is home to the technology corridor in northern Virginia, multiple NASA sites, and emerging markets such as cybersecurity and unmanned aerial systems. That means we’re in a unique position to significantly expand STEAM curriculum and the number of students taking computer science, coding, and advanced placement courses. However, minorities continue to be underrepresented in taking AP computer science. Through private sector and nonprofit partnerships and working with the General Assembly, a Northam administration will set aggressive goals for students in K-12 completing computer science courses.
Expand access to apprenticeships and training
Not every Virginian wants—or needs—to attend a four year college or university, but every Virginian should have the opportunity to gain further education or training. That means encouraging participation in industry certification programs, community colleges, and apprenticeship programs, and other advanced training. Ralph is committed to working with both businesses and community colleges to ensure there is a local training option for every available job. He also believes the final two years of high school should provide apprenticeships and job training for students who do not want to attend a four year college.
Build a school-to-work pipeline
Ralph believes our education system must create a pipeline from high school to community college, higher education, or a good paying job. Not only would this encourage students to stay in school and graduate, but it would also encourage employers to locate in Virginia, a commonwealth with good schools and a skilled workforce waiting for them.
To build this pipeline, we need to completely rethink the high school experience and ensure that all students are prepared to enter the workforce with the skills they need to be successful. A Northam administration will continue to support high school redesign efforts started under Gov. McAuliffe, and coupled with programs like Dr. Northam’s proposed G3 Program (Get a Job — Get Skilled — Give Back), Virginia’s students will have the resources they need to be prepared for the jobs of the 21st century.
Balance the budget
Ralph knows that businesses are attracted to well-governed states. He was in the Virginia Senate when the Great Recession hit, and he voted to cut spending by $4.6 billion to keep our budget balanced. He also supported tax relief for Virginia homeowners. Governors of both parties have conducted government efficiency reviews, and Ralph supports another complete audit of state operations because taxpayers deserve to know their money is being spent wisely.
Protect LGBT equality
Hate isn’t a Virginia value. Ralph will be a brick wall against the discrimination of the Trump Administration. Ralph knows every person deserves to be treated equally—no matter who they are or who they love. Unfortunately, Republicans too often disagree. Ralph has a long history of standing up for LGBT Virginians, from opposing bathroom bills that discriminate against transgender people, to fighting to protect LGBT people from workplace and adoption discrimination. Not only is protecting LGBT equality the right thing to do, building an inclusive, fair Virginia is good for business.
Donald Trump has made his first priority as president to roll back women’s access to reproductive healthcare and to take us back to the days before Roe v. Wade. Ralph is committed to fighting for Virginia women, especially their right to quality, affordable healthcare. As a physician, Ralph believes women’s healthcare choices are personal and best left between a woman and her doctor—not politicians in Richmond or Washington, DC. Ralph will fight for women so they can decide when to start a family, and he is an advocate for expanding access to long-acting reversible contraceptives like IUDs, as well as protecting a woman’s right to safe, legal abortion. As a state senator, Ralph led the fight against the invasive transvaginal ultrasound mandate and opposed legislation that would limit access to women’s health clinics. Ralph is proud to have a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood.
In just the first 50 days of holding office, the Trump administration reinstated the Global Gag Rule. He is continuing the Republican effort to defund Planned Parenthood by barring their ability to receive federal Medicaid reimbursements, the majority of the organization’s federal funding. Make no mistake — this is an attack on a woman’s ability to choose her provider and have access to quality, affordable healthcare.
When Republicans proposed banning abortion coverage in health insurance plans sold through our healthcare exchange, Ralph called the proposal out for what it was: a move to decrease women’s access to reproductive healthcare. When he is governor, Ralph will fight to overturn that amendment and any others like it.
Ralph fought against personhood legislation that would have effectively blocked women from accessing many types of contraception and invitro fertilization. Ralph has never wavered on choice and he never will. That’s why Ralph received a joint endorsement from both NARAL Pro-Choice America and NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and carries a 100% rating with NARAL and Planned Parenthood. Ralph will continue to be a brick wall, stopping attacks on reproductive rights and access to healthcare.
Expanding Access To Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs)
This year, Ralph proposed a $6 million pilot program to provide long acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) to women regardless of their ability to pay. A similar program in Colorado saw teen birth rates drop by 40 percent and teen abortions by 42 percent.
This legislative session, Republicans stripped the funding at the request of right-wing anti-abortion groups despite the fact it used no state funding. As governor, Ralph will make implementing this program, and increasing access to it if we experience similar success to Colorado, a priority. Through public and private sources, we can expand access to LARCs to ensure that income is not a barrier for Virginia women seeking affordable contraception.
Attracting, retaining, and supporting teachers
Teacher pay in Virginia is now well below the national average, and we’re losing good teachers because of it. This is contributing to inequality in our education system, as rural and less affluent school districts cannot afford to supplement state funding. Ralph will work with Democrats and Republicans alike to attack inequality in education by raising pay for teacher—a bipartisan priority in Richmond.
To have the best education system in the country, we also have to recruit and retain the best teachers. That includes regular professional development and training so they can continue to build their skills. As of October 2016, there were 800 classrooms across Virginia without a full-time teacher — this is unacceptable, and we have to do better.
Too often, Richmond is making policy decisions without teachers’ input. Through the State Board of Education and the Department of Education, a Northam administration will make sure that teachers are a valuable part of the education policy making process.
Ralph grew up in rural Virginia and is an avid outdoorsman, gun owner, hunter, and sports shooter from his days growing up in Accomack, attending VMI, and serving in the military. He knows rural Virginians are hard workers—and that we can do much more to bring good jobs to rural Virginia. Ralph will bring broadband internet to every Virginia community. He’ll fight for teacher pay raises and fair funding for rural public schools, and when Governor Northam is recruiting jobs, rural Virginia will be first on his mind and in his heart.
Jobs for veterans
In the past year, under Governor McAuliffe and Lt. Governor Northam, Virginia has doubled the number of veterans placed in jobs through the Virginia Values Veterans program. Ralph also supported legislation to establish a program to connect returning military medics to private sector healthcare jobs. Previously, these men and women would go unemployed because their medical experience was not recognized in civilian society, while employers left jobs unfilled, especially EMT positions. As an Army doctor, Ralph knows medics are highly qualified for such positions, having training and field experience with a variety of traumatic wounds. Ralph will continue to grow these programs until there is no longer any veteran joblessness in Virginia, just as veteran homelessness has been eradicated.