CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A former Republican gubernatorial candidate said the state has other priorities to address for the present before steps are taken to create a fund for the future.
“We need to fix the future to have a future fund,” said Bill Maloney. “Here in West Virginia, the future is bleak.”
Maloney said large scale reforms are needed to improve the state’s tax code, the judicial system, the size of state government, the labor climate and the regulatory environment for businesses before an endowment is formed to be tapped into 20 years from now.
Senate President Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall) is expected to again propose the creation of the West Virginia Future Fund when the 2014 Regular Legislative Session begins in January. It would set a baseline for severance tax collections and then take a portion of revenues above that amount and bank it for the future.
Kessler lead a delegation of state lawmakers to North Dakota last month to learn more about that state’s Legacy Fund which draws on oil and gas tax revenues. It was created in 2011 and reached $1 billion within 20 months.
Maloney said there are other lessons to learn from North Dakota, though, beyond just those tied to the Legacy Fund. “All these things that we need to look at in West Virginia, like our tax code, our court system, our regulatory climate, we need to fix those things so a future fund can truly thrive,” he said.
Following his unsuccessful gubernatorial campaigns, Maloney founded the Center for a Brighter Future, a think tank focused on new ideas to stimulate West Virginia’s economy. He released a policy statement about the proposed future fund this week. In part, it said the following:
“The question is: how can West Virginia replace declining coal tax revenue, find $36 billion to build and maintain our roads, find a revenue stream of an additional $60 million annually to pay for Medicaid expansion, pay off the $41 plus billion dollars in debt that we owe and account for other budgetary issues? There is only approximately $1 billion in the West Virginia Rainy Day Fund.
“The state budget will need every penny and a lot more from the growing natural gas severance tax annual revenue to meet our financial obligations. The answer is West Virginia cannot afford to divert natural gas severance tax funds to a future fund, refuse to fix our state’s long-standing chronic structural problems and hope for the best.”
Maloney was a guest on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”