An amendment to the West Virginia Constitution would have to be approved by two-thirds of both the House and the Senate and would also need to be approved by state voters.
Kessler said that he would seriously consider a constitutional amendment, after he's discussed it with other legislators and studied other states, like Wyoming and Alaska, that have set up similar funds.
"I think folks don't believe that legislators and legislatures will have the discipline not to spend it as fast as it comes in," Kessler said. "No matter who's in charge we're going to have a balanced budget because we're constitutionally required to. We've never had the foresight to save any for the future."
He did point to West Virginia's two rainy day funds, which together have nearly $1 billion, but said that they were dedicated to health care and natural disasters, not economic development.
He also said that any proposed future fund would focus only on oil and gas severance tax revenue, not coal.
"We may have missed the boat on coal, frankly -- the opportunities when it was most plentiful and easiest to get to and had the greatest demand -- it may have reached its zenith, unfortunately," Kessler said. "I'm not saying it's not still going to be a viable and important part of our energy portfolio."
Corky DeMarco, the executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, was one of several non-legislators who also made the trip.
He cautioned that North Dakota produces about 100 times more oil than West Virginia does, so people should not expect a hypothetical West Virginia fund to grow as fast as North Dakota's has.
Ted Boettner, director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, a left-leaning think tank, also made the trip to North Dakota. Boettner pointed out that the effective severance tax rate in North Dakota is approximately double the severance tax rate in West Virginia.
DeMarco did not want to commit to supporting anything before legislation was written, but did not oppose the idea of a fund.
"From the standpoint of what we can leave for our children and our grandchildren in West Virginia, we need to think about this," he said.
Sypolt expressed a similar sentiment. "West Virginia has been blessed with rich natural resources and to let all that wealth and resources be trucked our or piped out of the state without leaving a legacy behind for our children or grandchildren would be a shame," he said.
Reach David Gutman at david.gut...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.