Senate President Jeff Kessler hopes the Legislature's recent trip to North Dakota will build support for his plans to create a natural gas trust fund in West Virginia.
West Virginia lawmakers, along with representatives of the state's business, industry and labor communities, flew to North Dakota last week for a day of meetings with state officials to discuss that state's Legacy Fund.
Kessler, who organized the trip, said the most important lesson from the trip is, "It's something that's tried and true and it works."
Kessler has introduced bills over the last several legislative sessions attempting to create a natural gas trust fund for West Virginia
"One of the criticisms is, 'Kessler keeps introducing it and it never gets passed,' " he said.
But North Dakota's Legacy Fund also took several years to finally pass the legislature.
"It has been done by a state very similar to ours and has created an opportunity for great benefit for that state. There's no reason we can't do something the same or similar," he said.
He said he hopes the trip will build support for his bill in the upcoming legislative session.
"It's not conservative or liberal to save money. It's just smart."
Sen. Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming, said he was intrigued by North Dakota's decision to place its Legacy Fund in the state constitution, preventing lawmakers from easily changing the laws that govern it.
North Dakota lawmakers are not allowed to access the Legacy Fund money until 2017, unless the move is supported by two-thirds of the Legislature.
"Maybe we need to have that discussion here: Do we need to create this fund constitutionally so we can't touch it?" Hall said. "I doubt you can trust politicians very long when there's money out there to be spent."
Hall said he would like to see the money protected for 20 years. He said there are many large expenses that could come in the future, like rebuilding bridges or overhauling sewer systems, that today's lawmakers cannot anticipate.
"If we would have done this with coal 40 or 50 years ago, southern West Virginia would be in a totally different situation," he said. "In 30 years or 50 years, when our grandkids are sitting back talking, I think they're going to say those legislators back in 2014 made one of the best decisions West Virginia has ever made."