CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A lobbyist for the Independent Oil and Gas Association says there is not much of a financial cushion in West Virginia right now.

Phil Reale, a Charleston attorney, said state officials have few places to look for new revenues since both the coal and gaming industries are on the decline and the list of funding needs in the Mountain State is growing.

“The only one with any real prospect of increase at this time is natural gas.  That’s the growing, expanding part of our economy right now,” said Reale.

Because of that, he said state lawmakers will have to carefully weigh the current demands on the state budget with the benefits of saving for the future.

For several years, Senate President Jeff Kessler has proposed the creation of the West Virginia Future Fund and is expected to do so again during next year’s legislative session.

It would set a baseline for severance tax collections and then take part of the amount above that baseline, in the coming years, and automatically bank it for an endowment that could not be tapped into for at least 20 years.

Later this year, Kessler (D-Marshall) will lead a legislative trip to North Dakota to see how that state has saved a portion of the increased tax collections from a boom in the oil industry.

Oil and gas tax revenues go into the North Dakota Legacy Fund which was created in 2011 and now stands at more than $1 billion.

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said it makes sense.  “What if we had done that on coal?” he asked.  “We wouldn’t be discussing how we’re going to fix our broken road system.  We wouldn’t be discussing how we can repair all the problems that we’re troubled with.”

But Reale says West Virginia already has $1 billion in the Rainy Day Fund and there are immediate road needs, growing costs for college students, state employees who need raises and many other anticipated costs.

“I’m not convinced that we should do it immediately, but I do think it is a debate worth having,” said Reale.  “Anytime we’re talking about the future of the state and how we can make it better, I think it’s a good thing for us to do.”

Both Reale and Carper was a guest on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

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  • Tom

    AMEN!!!! We really need to look at what will be left once the gas and oil companies leave. We are facing the same problems as coal caused in the early 1900's and the same lowered quality of living.

  • RHytonen

    Yet they're stealing from MEDICAID to balance the budget.

    I don't need the calculus I learned as an engineer, to figure out there;s something DRASTICALLY -orders of magnitude- wrong, with the economic lies being told West Virginians about our ability to tolerate fracking in this state.

    Cumulative carcinogens are destroying the water supply forever (2.1 MILLION GALLONS of water per MONTH, just for the permits in ONE WEEK's newspaper, and in JUST ONE COUNTY!) That's just if they pay ANY attention to the "limits" in their permt - WHICH THEY iYET TO DO. Once permitted and working, they take as much as they want! Every West Virginian knows the state and federal legislators and "regulators" are absolutely "captured" (BOUGHT and OWNED) by the extractionists' bribes, which are obviously INSIGNIFICANT to the even more enormous profit in OFFSHORING our so-called "dwindling" energy and other natural resources.

    - and compared to complete destruction of the water/sewer infrastructures under the roads, destroyed by the unreasonable phalanxes of huge brine trucks banging over them night and day (and btw killing more local motorists every week.) Will the paltry "severace tax" REPLACE ALL THAT INFRASTRUCTURE after they leave? (and no matter WHAT they promise, or what little their OWNED political minions make a show of "making" them pay?)

    Do your math for ALL counties, EVERY WEEK's permits;
    (put down the Sports Page and look in your local paper's "LEGAL" section!)
    on the unthinkable volumes of this statewide onslaught that WILL turn places like North Bend State Park into an industrial WASTELAND just like Elizabeth, NJ.
    Take a drive on rt.50 ear Salem for a glimpse of what will soon merge into the ONLY sights to be seen in West Virginia. Continue on rt50 west by Pennsboro and Ellenboro, and observe a silent moment for the mother and daughter decapitated there last week by a brine truck.

    How much more do we tolerate before admitting it has to STOP (and not just be "fined" for more bribes as, for them, an insignificant "cost of doing business" - like those two dead women motorists, also the eight injured in a nearby Doddridge Cty. fracking explosion, just this past week?)