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McDonnell seeks $37 million in job-making initiatives

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Gov. Bob McDonnell is asking state lawmakers for $37 million over the next two years to fund a new package of initiatives targeting jobs and the economy.

"Jobs is still job one for our administration," McDonnell said Wednesday at a news conference in Richmond.

The package includes $10 million devoted to fostering the life-sciences industry in the state, $4 million for improvements at the Wallops Island rocket launch site and $2 million for tourism marketing and advertising.

McDonnell also is proposing a new small-business investor tax credit, an economic development grant program for agricultural and forestry operations, and $500,000 for offshore wind energy. Some of the ideas will be presented as legislation, while others are part of the budget that McDonnell proposed in December.

His two-year, $84.9 billion spending plan balances increases in transportation, higher education and the state's pension system with $882 million in targeted reductions largely to Medicaid and public education funding.

The General Assembly, which meets Wednesday in Richmond to begin its 2012 session, will consider the governor's proposals.

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, the state's chief job creation officer, said the $37 million package, if passed, would build upon the roughly $100 million in economic development initiatives approved in the past two years.

Asked about return on investment figures, McDonnell indicated that his administration is working on crunching numbers for General Assembly members.

Bolling said that of the 671 economic development deals closed in the state in the past two years, about 14 percent involved incentives. They tend to be larger deals, he said.

Michael Cassidy, president and CEO of The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, a left-leaning think tank in Richmond, says tax credits have a number of issues involving cost and effectiveness based on how they are structured.

The aim is "to incentivize behavior so that firms would do things that they wouldn't otherwise have done."

Cassidy said research has shown that some companies receive credits for hiring people they would have anyway and that it can be difficult to publicize a tax credit at the state level in a way that changes employer behavior.

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