Once again this year I am proud to sponsor a bill which my friend and colleague, President Jeff Kessler, has made a focal point for this Senate and the West Virginia Legislature.
Senate Bill 461 would create the "West Virginia Future Fund." In essence, this "Future Fund" would use a portion of West Virginia's proceeds from the booming natural gas industry by setting aside 25 percent of any severance taxes after $100 million has been collected from the industry.
The fund would then be reserved for a number years to allow proper long-term growth and for interest to accrue. The money could eventually be used for everything from increasing teacher and public employee salaries to infrastructure projects. Long term, it could serve as an economic stabilizer to allow wealth and prosperity to remain in West Virginia well after the natural gas boom has ended, something we missed in regard to some of our other extractive industries such as coal and timber.
This natural gas boon through the Marcellus Shale and other shale gas exploration could potentially be one of the biggest opportunities for American industry in the last 50 years. It will be equivalent to what has happened with oil in Alaska and Texas and further make this country energy independent. Over time, The West Virginia Future Fund could grow tremendously to a point that we have hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, to draw from as a means of sustaining our economy, regardless of the economic climate of any given time.
We could also use this money in a variety of ways to help West Virginia reach its full potential. We could use it to provide diversification of the economy, educational opportunities, and to increase infrastructure that is so needed in the state. Another objective would be to provide tax relief to our citizens. We want to share the wealth created by this industry with every man, woman and child that chooses to live in our great state.
The measure was passed unanimously Wednesday by the Senate Economic Development Committee and now heads to the Senate Finance Committee. I will continue to push for this legislation and stay updated as to the progress of this legislation.
We are continuing to debate many other issues and measures here in Charleston as we near and pass the 30-day - or halfway mark - of the 60-day session. Several deadlines in regard to legislation loom in the near future so committees will be working extremely hard in the coming days and weeks to ensure bills that deserve to be considered get the full attention of the lawmakers.
If you should have any questions or comments regarding any issues on any other pieces of legislation when they come before the Legislature, please contact me at my Charleston office. My address is: Senator Jack Yost, State Capitol Complex, Building 1, Room 214W, Charleston, WV 25305. My telephone number is (304) 357-7984 and my secretary is Wanda Casto. When calling the toll free number 1-877-565-3447, ask to be transferred. I encourage my constituents to remain active and part of the legislative process. I look forward to hearing from you.
(Yost, a Democrat from Wellsburg, represents the 1st Senatorial District in the West Virginia Legislature)