CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Eighteen members of the West Virginia legislature will spend three days in North Dakota next month to learn about a permanent natural gas severance tax fund.
Senate President Jeff Kessler organized the late August trip to see how a similar so-called legacy fund could be established in West Virginia to tap into rising natural gas production.
The Charleston Gazette reports that Kessler has advocated using natural gas severance taxes to create a permanent fund that could be used for infrastructure improvements, tax relief or investments.
In Kessler’s Marshall County alone, Williams Energy has invested more than $4.5 billion on three facilities.
Kessler said West Virginia will only see gas severance tax collections grow. If that money is not set aside soon, he said, it never will be.
North Dakota’s Legacy Fund has collected about $1.3 billion since it was created in 2011.
That state’s fund is based on oil, as well as gas, so Kessler said West Virginia would not achieve that level of collections.
The delegation to North Dakota will include nine senators and nine delegates. They hope to learn what North Dakota has done to make its fund successful.
“Seeing is always believing,” Kessler said. “We can read about it or whatever, but if we can sit and talk to their governor and legislative leaders and the board that administers the fund, it will give us unique insights into how to set up a fund and why it’s a desirous course of action for our state.”
West Virginia has two rainy day funds with nearly $1 billion. Kessler said those funds are for health care and natural disasters, and not for planning for the future.
“Do we really need more than $1 billion in funds for floods and pestilence?” Kessler said. “I’m talking more of an investment fund for diversifying our economy.”
The trip begins Aug. 21. Hotel accommodations for the 18-member delegation will be about $3,000. Kessler was not sure about the exact total cost of the trip, but estimated it at about $1,000 per person.
The other members of the delegation are: Sen. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia; Sen. Rocky Fitzsimmons, D-Ohio; Sen. Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming; Sen. Bill Laird, D-Fayette; Sen. Ron Miller, D-Greenbrier; Sen. Robert Plymale, D-Wayne; Sen. Gregory Tucker, D-Nicholas; Sen. Bob Williams, D-Taylor; Delegate Jason Barrett, D-Berkeley; Delegate Phillip Diserio, D-Brooke; Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha; Delegate Bill Hamilton, R-Upshur; Delegate Richard Iaquinta, D-Harrison; Delegate Mike Manypenny, D-Taylor; Delegate Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha; Delegate Ron Walters, R-Kanawha and Delegate Adam Young, D-Nicholas.
Information from: The Charleston Gazette, http://www.wvgazette.com