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.
“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.