WHEELING - Legislation creating a permanent investment account for natural gas severance tax revenue in West Virginia unanimously passed the state Senate today.
The bill creates the West Virginia Future Fund, and calls for 25 percent of any annual oil and gas severance tax revenue collections beyond $175 million to be deposited in an investment fund, starting with the new fiscal year that begins July 1.
The bill also requires state officials to allow the fund to accrue interest until at least 2020 before spending any of it, and after that could use it only for three purposes: economic development projects, infrastructure or education enhancement. The principal balance of the fund would remain untouched.
According to the bill's lead sponsor, Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, West Virginia missed out on a huge opportunity by failing to create such a fund for coal severance tax revenue decades ago. Similar funds already in place in oil-producing states such as North Dakota and Alaska have generated billions.
The bill now moves to the House of Delegates.