Report authors said state leaders could use the trust fund money to help address many of West Virginia's long-standing socioeconomic challenges, including the lack of economic diversity, the low labor-force participation rate and deteriorating infrastructure.
"West Virginia's economy is one of the weakest and least diversified in the nation, with the second lowest output and personal income per capita, and an employment mix that lacks diversity," the center said. "The state's labor market is very weak, and has the nation's lowest number of educated workers and workers participating in the labor force.
"West Virginia ranks at the bottom on many economic welfare indicators, including poverty, median income, health outcomes, and overall well-being," the report said. "The state's infrastructure is also deteriorating, with more than $8 billion in unmet needs.
"Without a large-scale investment in the workforce and infrastructure, West Virginia could remain uncompetitive."
Currently, the base severance tax rate for coal and gas in West Virginia is 5 percent. More and more of the state's coal production, though, qualifies for lower rates for being mined from thin seams. And once various credits are applied, the "effective rate" for coal is 3.2 percent, the center said in a previous report.
"With coal production declining in West Virginia, we see that local and state economies cannot rely indefinitely on finite natural resources for jobs and tax revenues," said report co-author Rory McIlmoil, a project manager with the Morgantown consulting group Downstream Strategies.
"With a permanent trust fund, we can ensure that sufficient revenues are available to sustain economic development investments in the future without being concerned as much with booms and busts."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.