Don’t Cripple Future Fund

A tried-and-true strategy for killing a piece of legislation is to insert a “poison pill” into it. Let us hope that is not the effect of changes in the Future Fund bill pending in the West Virginia House of Delegates.

State senators approved their version of the Future Fund bill weeks ago. It follows a template devised by Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall. Kessler believes the fund, setting aside money year by year under prudent controls, will help future state officials undertake big projects West Virginia simply cannot afford now.

But on Wednesday, the House Finance Committee made major changes in the bill. They are outlined in a story on page one of today’s newspaper.

Kessler’s original plan, adopted by the Senate, was to take 25 percent of gas and oil severance tax revenue, after $175 million had been collected each year. That money would be set aside in the Future Fund.

House Finance Committee members altered the formula. Their plan would set aside 3 percent of severance tax revenue from oil and gas, limestone and sandstone and coal. The House measure also includes other changes.

The bottom line is that far less money would be deposited in the Future Fund than under the Kessler system.

That and other changes would have to be approved by the Senate for the Future Fund to be established at all. Senators may balk at the House version – or may not have time to deal with it before the legislative session ends Saturday night.

Either way, the House panel changes could amount to a “poison pill” intended to kill the Future Fund. Kessler’s idea is a good one – and it would be a shame for it to die.