CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Senate President Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall) will again make his proposal for the West Virginia Future Fund a priority during the 2014 Regular Legislative Session which opens at the State Capitol next week.

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Senate President Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall)

“We’re on the cusp of a new energy opportunity with the oil and gas,” said Kessler.

“I fully expect that the revenues that we’re going to see generated from that industry are going to continue to grow exponentially and now is the time to set up a framework of a plan to save a portion of those revenues.”

His proposed future fund would serve as a savings account, of sorts, where a specified percentage above current severance tax collections would automatically be banked for the future, untouchable until a specified date.

Kessler has floated the idea of the creation of the West Virginia Future Fund for the past several years.  However, the idea is expected to again face opposition this year, another tight budget year, when any number of groups and agencies will be in line for limited state dollars.

If it does not happen this year, “When are we ever going to break this cycle of poverty and playing from behind in this state, unless we have the ability to create a nest egg from a huge opportunity we have?” Kessler asked on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

By all accounts, state revenues will be tight in the coming fiscal year.  Many state agencies have already been asked to submit budgets that are 7.5 percent below current spending levels while, at the same time, there are pushes for pay raises for teachers and other state employees.

“It’s not off the table,” said Kessler of the possibility of teacher pay raises in the coming year.  “I think it’s going to be difficult.”

As for a proposal to require prescriptions for medications containing pseudephedrine, “I voted for it in the past and I’m inclined to do it again,” said Kessler.  He said such a law change could help reduce the number of illegal meth labs in West Virginia.

The 2014 Regular Legislative Session begins on Wednesday, Jan. 8 at the State Capitol and will continue into March.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin will deliver his State of the State Address to members of the state Senate and state House of Delegates next Wednesday night.

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  • Gilbert Gnarley

    Does anyone find it ironic that Kessler wants to use extractive industries to "break the cycle of poverty" when many hold to the belief that it was those very same that impoverished West Virginia in the first place?

    Same song but a different verse, Senator?

    Just an observation......

  • needmore

    The fact is that I'm on SSI because I've eaten too much so I'm disabled, and I get a lot of other free stuff: food stamps, health insurance, rent assistance, utility assistance, rides to doctors, etc. But it is NOT ENOUGH. I need more. That future fund should be set aside for folks like me who need more. You working folks don't need more. You need to work more to keep me afloat.

    • Polly the Pundit

      Did you get your Obamaphone?

  • WHB

    Personally, I think it is a great idea. However, won't work...can't work. Greed and avarice are part of most humankind's nature...including politicians. Unfortunately! Intelligent people are not the ones necessarily blessed with wisdom.

  • Aaron

    I am amazed that at a time when our governor is enacting across the board spending cuts, we have a blue ribbon commission in place to make recommendations on how to come up with infrastructure funding to make up for federal shortages in transportation funding, the majority of our pension obligations are underfunded and tax revenues are consistently coming in below projections, we're talking about squirreling away money.

    Don't get me wrong, I am all for saving and I agree with the amount of resources this state possesses that we should not be in such dire financial constraints but in my humble opinion, I would think that we as a state should get our financial house in order first by meeting our current obligations and then we can talk about creating savings for the future.

    The one thing I will say is that before we start raising other taxes or implementing cuts, we should maximize revenue from the natural gas industry through increased severance taxes. If energy companies decided they do not want to extract the gas for that reason then it will stay in the ground until they're willing to pay.

    • Gilbert Gnarley

      You are spot on, Aaron.

      Unfortunately the Legislature is comin' to town and the hogs are headin' for the trough.

      We need to take the future one day at a time and not with some copycat program from another state. If we don't get our finances in order, we won't need to worry about "the future" for there will not be one.

      Since Kessler brought up gas (so to speak), hey Gov, anything more on that half-billion dollar fracker?

    • stophating

      Haven't you figured out that the politicos in Charleston can always find money for anything they want to fund...

      The budget deficit is strictly a political move. They have to be able to justify not giving public employees a raise. They do across the board cuts, and then come July there will be 200 million more dollars to put into the rainy day fund....

  • Independent View

    Good idea, however, this poster is not optimistic about getting politicians to "bank" money. If there is cash on hand, they tend to spend it like drunken sailors.
    And, in a similar vein, where has decades of coal severance tax money gone? Placed in the budget and long ago spent. The same applies to county commissions. They collect a portion of severance taxes too, but they too have made it part of their respective county's operating budgets or squardered it on "pet projects" that otherwise could not pass funding muster; all with no thought for the future when coal revenues are on the decline.
    Get your collective heads out of the sand and act responsively and plan for the future when these revenue streams dry up. But nooo, with coal revenues in a downward spiral, now, politicians are licking their collective lips in anticipation of getting a crack at spending the oil & gas revenue stream. And, politicians wonder why voters are disenchanted and disgusted!

  • RT

    What's sad is the state has been in this position before. This state should be the riches state in the union with all the timber, coal, gas we've produced for years. Instead large corp. come into WV and take our resources and we're left with the same old thing budget cuts. Looking to the future is great, except there won't be any future if we let out of state corp. reap our resources and we're left with no timber, coal and natural gas.

  • JDI

    This is a very smart, sensible idea. For once, we all need to be looking to the future. It is easy to get caught up in the crises of the moment but if we really want to improve our state, we need to stop shopping for the best band-aids and have the surgery. Public employees - if you ever, ever want a raise we have to change the whole fiscal dynamic of state government. This is a step in the right direction. Just do it.

    • stophating

      So public employees should sit back and let millions (that according to estimates don't exist) be put into an account and at some future point the account will magically open and give raises....

      I have some ocean front property in Mingo to sell to you as well