Senate Will Consider Future Fund

WHEELING – A bill establishing the West Virginia Future Fund gets its first reading on the state Senate floor today after unanimous approval in the finance committee Monday.

Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, first proposed his Future Fund bill in 2011, and he expects this year the Legislature could pass it. Kessler also introduced last week a second measure proposing an amendment to the state’s constitution and specifying how dollars placed into the Future Fund can be spent.

“I feel extremely good,” he said. “We’re on course to change the course of our state. This can redefine our future, and that’s what it’s all about. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.”

The Future Fund bill stipulates the first $175 million received by the state each year from the oil and natural gas severance taxes would continue to be distributed as normal between the general fund and producing counties. But 25 percent of any revenue received beyond that amount would be placed into an investment fund to accumulate interest.

No money could be spent from the fund until after 2020.

Kessler’s second proposal calls for an amendment to the state Constitution that would go before voters in November. The measure would limit spending of the interest dollars by lawmakers to only one of four areas – enhancing education and workforce development; economic development and diversification; infrastructure improvements; and tax relief measures.

Kessler anticipates the Future Fund bill will have a Senate vote Thursday.

The Future Fund legislation is Senate Bill 461. The amendment proposal is Senate Joint Resolution 14.