CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After several years of failure, a "future fund" bill to save and invest oil and gas tax revenue seems poised to pass the West Virginia Senate. The bill was introduced Friday with 31 of 34 senators listed as co-sponsors.
The bill needs 18 votes to pass the Senate.
The bill would collect a portion of severance-tax revenue, but only if it exceeds a specific threshold, and save the money for future infrastructure projects, raises for school teachers or economic development projects.
The future fund would collect 25 percent of oil and gas severance-tax revenue that comes in above $175 million. If collected taxes do not rise above $175 million, the fund would not collect any money.
The money could not be spent for six years and then, only the interest could be spent, the principal would be maintained and invested, the bill states. Previous, failed, versions of the bill had stipulated the money be put aside for 20 years.
Senate President Jeff Kessler, the bill's lead sponsor, said he decided to lower the timeframe to improve the bill's chances of passage after legislators took a trip to North Dakota last summer to study how that state set up its "Legacy Fund."
"That's what they did in North Dakota, because it's hard to get the public or the politicians to not touch anything for that long," he said.
Kessler, D-Marshall, said $175 million is well above the amount the state Department of Revenue estimates will be needed to balance the budget.
"We're not touching any of the projected revenues which the Governor's Office is using to balance the budget," Kessler said. "It's money that's gravy -- over and above what they're anticipating will come in."