Media Truth

Tobacco Commission Failure Once Again in 2014

by Lewis Loflin

Update 2014: scandal rips the Tobacco Commission but nothing changes.

The Virginia Tobacco Commission continues its failure and government waste is as strong as ever. In 2014 they are under writing a silly movie as tourism development. See Can't Buy a Job - Virginia Wastes $900,000 to Underwrite Movie

Page 18 of the Blue Ribbon report noted the following:

Economic Impact Difficult to Measure;
Meaningful outcomes data not collected by TICR for 89% of awards;
Many projects too recent to yield benefits
$372 M awarded since 2008
TICR's exact contribution to revitalization difficult to gauge.

In addition 89 percent of the grants have never been audited as of 2008 - and still haven't been in 2014. Read the full report.

Calls for reform since 2008 have been ignored by our ruling political class and nothing has changed in 2014.

As of 2014 there is still nothing to show other than a few high paying jobs and positions for a hand full of educated often transplants to the region. The regional economy is still mired in third-world corruption and poverty.

If all of this sounds like bad news and I'm just a spoil-sport, then I wish I was wrong. According to the Blue Ribbon Review Panel (April 17, 2008) of the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission, they have spent $432 million on more than 900 so-called "revitalization projects" since 2000. This website and writer has warned of this waste for years and sadly, I've been proven right. What do we get according to them? To quote,

An area of great concern with regards to the ability to revitalize the economy is education for young people and adults...(for)...Congressional District 9 (a proxy for Southwest) have much higher percentages of population over age 25 with no high school degree, and much lower percentages of people with bachelor's degrees or higher than either the rest of the state or the analysis of Virginia Department of Education annual school enrollment data by grade shows that a number of localities in the region have much larger numbers of students in the ninth grade than in the twelfth grade three years later...The largest drop in numbers of students is occurring between the ninth and tenth is likely that most of these students are dropping out of high school and will not graduate.

I attribute this to out-migration that leaves behind a larger percentage of poorer and less motivated people. To continue:

As in the rest of Virginia, economic growth in Southside and Southwest Virginia is occurring in the services industries, including professional, technical, administrative support, healthcare, educational, repair, personal services, and "Other" employment categories including utilities, transportation, communication, information, finance, insurance, and real estate. However in the Southside/Southwest regions, the percentage of overall wages in these "information age" industries is still substantially below the rest of the State.

Not only the level of these jobs, but the wage scales are so low that those with degrees continue to flee the region. To further quote the report:

Given the existing state of the Southside and Southwest economies, it is fair to ask whether the expenditure of over $400 million by the TICR since the year 2000 on "regional transformation" projects has had the desired transformative effect on the regions...Despite this spending, population in the region continues to decline, wage rates still lag behind the rest of the state, there is persistent high unemployment and poor educational attainment is still endemic.

To quote James A. Bacon at Bacon's Rebellion:

Not only has the Commission failed to "transform" the Southside/Southwest Virginia economy, it has squandered many of its resources. By keeping the old economy on life support, it has failed to steer sufficient resources into the new economy. For all intents, the economies of Southside and Southwest Virginia look very much like they did 10 years ago...