Senate President Jeff Kessler
Senate President Jeff Kessler says now is the time to create a long term savings account for the state.
He has again proposed the creation of the West Virginia Future Fund at the State House, a fund that would save a portion of any future increases to severance tax revenue collections.
“Now, I think, is the time to start setting aside some money for infrastructure improvements, the future, a savings account, and dedicate that money for the long term prosperity of our state,” Senator Kessler said.
He is from Marshall County where the natural gas industry is booming largely because of developments in the Marcellus shale.
“That growth is only beginning. We’re only starting to see the tip of the iceberg of the growth. You’re going to see that, not only double, but quadruple again and again and again, not only in Marshall County, but throughout the state,” the Senate President said.
“I think we need to be forward thinking and say, ‘Let’s save some of that money.’”
His proposal would set a baseline for severance tax collections and then take 25% of any amount over that baseline, in the coming years, and automatically bank the money for an endowment that could not be tapped into for at least 20 years.
Senator Kessler estimates the permanent legacy fund, as he envisions it, could one day hold several billion dollars.
“Had we done something similar to this with coal a hundred years ago, we would have been the richest state in the nation rather than, in many respects, at the bottom rung on a lot of economic indicators,” Senator Kessler said.
He points to Alaska, North Dakota and Wyoming as examples of states that have cashed in on their natural resources by taking steps for the future and says West Virginia needs to start saving before the increases in severance taxes start being allocated to other areas.
The first stop for SB 167, which would create the West Virginia Future Fund, is the Senate Economic Development Committee.