The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy was started in
2007 through several grants to foster economic development, study family
economic security, and develop tax and budget policies. The Center issues several
annual reports that consider job and economic stability in WV.
“We try to put up solutions to some of the problems that are
facing West Virginia. That’s our main goal,” Ted Boettner, executive director
of the West Virginia Center
Boettner has been working along side other organizations to promote the idea of establishing a permanent mineral trust fund in West Virginia, similar to what six other states have done.
“About three years ago I found a law journal article out of New
Mexico,” Boettner remembers. “It’s the only article
I’ve ever found that looked at these states’ permanent mineral trust funds. At
the very end she had a whole section on West Virginia that said that of all the
places that needs one of these it’s West Virginia. I couldn’t agree more.”
After three years of collecting information and doing research,
the Center released a report earlier this year detailing some of its findings
that support the need for a mineral trust fund in the state. The report
discusses the lack of economic diversity and underdeveloped workforce; it takes
a close look at other states’ funds; and outlines projections for future coal
and gas production. Similar reports have also recently been released.
“Consol Coal and Arch and Peabody, Alpha Natural
Resources—all these big companies, they didn’t create any assets in the state
that are long term. The Benedum Foundation would be the only exception and
they’re actually located in Pittsburgh. There’s no University of Chicago,
University of Pennsylvania, no Carnegie Mellons here. There’re no huge
investments in the state. It’s always flown out of the state,” Boettner says.
“That’s another reason to have a fund: to create assets in
our state that we can use for our people.”
Boettner and his associates have been communicating and
working with legislators like Senate President Jeff Kessler who represents
the northern panhandle where the gas boom has created significant economic
“I proposed the creation of a mineral trust fund, so to
speak, or a ‘future fund’ where we put a portion of the increased severance
dollars that we will be seeing over the next several decades into a fund that
will diversify and sustain our economy into the future,” Kessler says.
Kessler’s bill was introduced in the last legislative
session and stalled in the economic development committee. The bill would set
aside 25 percent of increased proceeds from the oil and natural gas severance
tax for a future trust fund. It specifies that the legislature will not use any
principal or interest from the fund for twenty years; and addresses the
possible uses of the fund.
“It’s interesting to see how [other states] used their funds,”
Boettner says. “Like Wyoming: up
to twenty percent of their general revenue fund is just the interest from their
permanent mineral trust fund.”
“Imagine what West Virginia
would be like if we’d done this fifty years ago.” Boettner adds.
According to United States Census Bureau data, mineral
severance taxes generate nearly nine percent of all state revenues in West
“I think what we’re seeing with the decline of coal in
southern West Virginia,” Boettner
“It’s starting to become a reality. Especially in the southern part of
the state in the next decade—it’s really going to be a reality over the next
two decades—are we going to have assets, are we going to have a source of
revenue to replace the revenue that’s gone? Are we going to be able to help these
counties and these local communities transition? This is an opportunity that we
can prepare for that.”
Boettner says he and a team of people have been and will
continue touring around the state to talk to local economic
development authorities and county commissioners.
Boettner reports that once they assure community members
that the fund would be structured so as not to take away any money counties
receive from current gas and coal severance taxes,
they’ve met with little resistance to the idea. He hopes more outreach will get
more West Virginians involved and invested in the
potential benefits of such a fund.