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Future Fund bill advances to WV House of Delegates

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The Future Fund bill, Senate Bill 461, which has been sponsored by West Virginia Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, and is backed by nearly every member of the Senate, was sent to the West Virginia House of Delegates on Feb. 21.

Kessler's bill, if passed by the House, would allow the state to save 25 percent of its oil and gas severance taxes.

Kessler said he was delighted the bill passed unanimously out of the Senate without any type of resistance or objection.

"I think people have come to the realization this oil and gas opportunity creates a second bite of the apple for us to create some real wealth and opportunity," he said. "This time, if we manage this resource a little better than we have in the past."

Kessler said the Mountain State has historically been rich in natural resources, but remains at the bottom in a lot of other areas including income, population and education. He is hoping with the Future Fund all of that can change.

"If we had the courage, sense or foresight to do this 100 years ago when coal was in it's heyday we'd be the richest (state) instead of the poorest," Kessler added.

If the Legislature would have capitalized on the coal severance tax back in the 1970s, Kessler said, the Mountain State would have about $8 billion in reserves earning about $800 million a year at 10 percent interest, by his estimation.

He said with the enormous supply of resources, there is no reason for West Virginia to give them away.

"You can create a real pot of wealth and change our state forever," Kessler said.

With examples of other states in the country following this process and capitalizing on their natural resources, Kessler said one of those states, North Dakota, has seen a lot of benefits.

North Dakota started a Legacy Fund that takes advantage of the state's oil and gas stream. The fund grew by $1.3 billion in it's first few months.

"The future fund is more of a progress fund, a fund that will be available to create long standing wealth for the people in this state," Kessler added.