A delegation of Democrats and Republicans from the West Virginia Legislature traveled to North Dakota to learn about that state's Legacy Fund, a savings account for oil and gas tax revenues.
The trip, led by Democratic Senate President Jeff Kessler, is a move to learn about a promising program in another resource-rich state. North Dakota voters approved that state's Legacy Fund in 2010.
Thirty percent of North Dakota's oil and gas tax
collections flow into a trust. Interest revenues will be directed to the state's general revenue fund. With booming oil production, the fund has collected $1.3
billion in just under two years.
North Dakota is not the only state with such a trust fund, although it among the newest.
Texas set aside land for its university system in the 1870s, and later directed oil and gas royalties into a Permanent University Fund. Today, the $14.4 billion fund is the nation's largest public university endowment.
The idea of a carefully constructed Legacy Fund for West Virginia that captures value without creating an undue tax burden is worthy of consideration.
"If we had saved a penny, or a nickel, or a dime a ton from our coal reserves we'd be one of the richest states in the union instead of one of the poorest," Kessler said.