"When you open that up, everybody underneath the capitol dome is going to say, 'hey, there is new revenue. Let's grab that new revenue.' That's what we face," Wells said.
Charging state taxes on online purchases is similarly improbable, he said, because states would need to agree on what to tax and how to tax it - although Amazon.com recently announced it would start charging sales tax on purchases made in West Virginia.
When questioned whether an increase to the state's coal severance tax could generate enough funding, Guthrie said that solution, "for reasonable and logical people," might sound feasible, but the reality is different.
"When you get up to the Legislature, and you realize that you're going to be rained upon by all of these lobbyists that, quite frankly, could buy and sell all of us six times over before we got out the door, it becomes a difficult problem," she said. "I'm not saying it's impossible, and I think we may have missed our opportunity with coal, but we have not missed our opportunity with gas."
Some faculty members in the audience said they were frustrated by the current situation.
"These meetings are supposed to be a way for you to get input from us -- you said explicitly that you need our ideas -- and some fairly reasonable, straightforward ideas have been presented here, and the reaction is, 'well, we can't do that. That's not possible politically,'" said Dan Holbrook, chairman of Marshall's history department.
"I guess I'm saddened that our elected representatives find this sort of thing impossible because they're -- let me put this harshly -- 'held hostage' by some lobbyists, when the vast majority of the population, if it's presented correctly, would absolutely support paying slightly more for goods and services if we got some broad-based future economic development that included support for higher education."
The proposed "Future Fund" was also discussed. The fund, generated on oil and gas revenues, is based on a similar idea set up by North Dakota lawmakers to save some revenues from that state's booming natural gas industry.
Eldon Larsen, faculty senate chairman at Marshall, said the state's decision for an across-the-board cut showed an inability to prioritize, and a future fund for education does nothing to bolster students and educators hoping to improve futures now.
"We have to decide what's most important in this state. Nobody in the legislature is willing to make the hard decisions because it's 'too political,'" he said. "When are you going to stop being political -- and I know you can't -- and start making the hard decisions about what's important, instead of treating everything the same when it's not."
Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nu...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.