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House panel alters Senate chief’s Future Fund bill

WHEELING, W.Va. – The House Finance Committee on Wednesday approved Senate President Jeff Kessler’s West Virginia Future Fund proposal, but not before making several significant changes that would bring coal revenue into play and only allow investment in the fund when financial times are good.

The bill is scheduled to receive its first reading on the House floor today, leading up to a potential final vote Saturday, the last day of the regular session.

During a Wednesday evening session, the committee struck the provision of the bill setting a $175 million benchmark for natural gas severance tax collections before any money would be deposited in a permanent investment fund. Instead, 3 percent of all severance tax proceeds from coal, natural gas, oil, limestone and sandstone that otherwise would have gone to the state’s general fund would be deposited in the Future Fund.

No money could be added to the Future Fund in years during which the state needs to dip into its rainy day fund or impose mid-year spending reductions or hiring freezes to avert a budget shortfall. Committee members also inserted a provision forbidding legislators from spending any more than the average interest income from the fund in the previous five budget cycles during any one year…

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