North Dakota-bound officials seek info on legacy fund

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Some 17 state lawmakers will be North Dakota-bound on Wednesday, aiming to learn more about that state’s legacy fund.

The North Dakota Legacy Fund, created in 2011, has been funded with oil and gas tax revenues and reached $1 billion within 20 months. West Virginia Senate President Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall), who will be leading the trip, has proposed a similar idea for the Mountain State the past three years.

“Why not use some of the resources that we have that are in plentiful supply, that are in great demand to create wealth and opportunities for the future generations and, even in the short term, to give tax relief, etc. for the citizens of our state?”

For West Virginia, Kessler’s proposal would set a baseline for severance tax collections and take between 20 percent and 25 percent of any amount over that baseline, creating an endowment that could not be accessed for at least 20 years.

Kessler said West Virginia has not been good at saving revenues generated by the state’s natural resources.

“We’ve not set aside any of the monies,” he said. “We’ve spent everything that’s come in every year and, as lawmakers, it seems like all we every worry about is balancing this year’s budget, this year’s budget, this year’s budget and, at the end of the day, we’ve done that for 100 years and you see where we’re at.”

In addition to the 17 lawmakers, others making the trip include Kenny Perdue, WV AFL-CIO; Steve Scholotterbeck, Joe Dawley and Greg Hoyer, EQT Production; Bob Orndorff, Dominion Energy; Corky DeMarco, West Virginia Oil & Natural Gas Association; Ted Boettner, West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy and Rick Wilson, West Virginia Economic Justice Project.

“I think the most important thing we can come back with is an understanding that this isn’t just Pollyanna, pie-in-the-sky dreaming,” said Kessler.

“A state very similar to ours—very extraction-heavy industry in that area historically, same as us—have actually already done it, looked at it, they’ve implemented it and it’s working quite well.”

He was a guest on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

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