CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Candidates from Kanawha County's 35th and 37th House of Delegates districts said they all support -- with varying degrees of enthusiasm -- using a portion of coal and natural gas severance taxes to create a state trust fund, commonly called a Future Fund.
Delegate Meshea Poore, D-Kanawha, running for re-election in the 37th District, said the state has an opportunity to capitalize on the burgeoning Marcellus Shale industry, something it failed to do generations earlier with coal mining.
"We have to take ownership," she said. "We don't have to continue to allow ourselves to be taken advantage of."
Chris Morris, a former state tax commissioner making his first bid for the House's 35th District, noted that coal and natural gas production are cyclical.
"The responsible thing is to take a portion of severance taxes to set aside for down cycles," said Morris, a Democrat who served under former Govs. Bob Wise and Joe Manchin.
Delegate Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha, running for re-election in the 35th, said the trust fund is a good idea, as long as it can be used to benefit the state.
"We need to make sure it's not like the Rainy Day fund, where we have all this money out there but we can't touch it," Skaff said. West Virginia has more than $850 million in its Rainy Day funds, but the money can be allocated only in the event of statewide natural or fiscal disasters.
John McCuskey, a Republican candidate in the 35th, gave a qualified yes to a Future Fund, so long as it does not detract from his primary goal of making West Virginia more business-friendly.
"Successful industry does not oppose taxation," said perennial Republican House candidate Fred Joseph, adding, "What disgusts businesses ... is what's done with their funds after they're collected."
Republican 35th District hopeful Suzette Raines said she supports a Future Fund, noting, "This is an investment in our state I think these companies are going to be proud to make."
Candidates in the 35th, which includes the western portion of the old 32nd House District including South Charleston, Dunbar, St. Albans and part of Charleston; and the 37th, made up of the flats of Charleston's downtown, East End and West Side, met with Gazette editors Wednesday.