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MetroNews - Gubernatorial Candidate Proposes Fund For West Virginia's Future

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One of the Democrat candidates for governor says now is the time for West Virginia to invest in the future.

"We've always been mineral rich in this state, but we haven't created any wealth in this state," Acting Senate President Jeff Kessler says he wants to change that.

Kessler was in Ohio County Tuesday to unveil his plan for, what he calls, the "West Virginia Future Fund."

As part of that plan, 25% of the severance taxes collected from future drilling operations in the Marcellus shale would immediately go into a trust fund that could not be touched for decades.

It's what Kessler says West Virginia should have done with coal severance money in the past.

If 1% of the severance tax money collected on coal had been put away starting in the 1980s, he claims the state would now have billions of dollars for education, infrastructure and other projects.

"It's rare that you get a second bite at the apple. This time, I think we need to actually protect that money, put it in the bank, save it for our children, diversify our economy and keep our kids here so they don't have to leave," the Senator said.

He says he does not support a proposal that would raise the current 5% severance tax on the natural gas that comes out of the Marcellus shale.

Legislation setting up a regulatory framework for drilling in the Marcellus shale did not make it out of the Legislature during the 2011 Legislative Session that ended last month.

Senator Kessler says he sees no need for a moratorium on new drilling permits, as some members of the state House of Delegates have suggested. Instead, he says Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin needs to call a Special Session soon so those regulations can be addressed.

"It's tough to get anyone to come in and invest in this state if they don't know what the rules of the game are going to be," he said.

Senator Kessler was a guest on Tuesday's MetroNews Talkline, one in a series of interviews Hoppy Kercheval is conducting with the candidates before the Special Gubernatorial Primary Election on Saturday, May 14th.

Kessler is one of six Democrat candidates running for governor. There are eight Republican candidates.


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