A Future Fund: Paying it forward in West Virginia
West Virginia stands at a crossroads, and the American Friends Service Committee is working hard to help create a plan for the future. The state is facing a natural gas boom similar to that of the coal industry in the last century. After 90 years of working in West Virginia, AFSC knows that shared prosperity and natural resources extraction don’t necessarily go hand in hand. How can the state beat the “resource curse”?
AFSC’s West Virginia Economic Justice Program is putting a lot of energy into The Coalition for A Future Fund, a loosely-knit coalition of groups and individuals who support the creation of a permanent mineral trust fund to secure the economic future of West Virginia. At speaking engagements across the state, Director Rick Wilson makes the case for creating a Future Fund, as several other mineral producing states have done. The Fund will be created from a portion of natural resource severance taxes and will turn a one-time source of revenue into a permanent source of wealth for the state.
The goal: create a grass-roots movement that results in sustainable wealth for the state.
The legacy of booms and busts in coal counties can be seen in lower median household incomes; higher family poverty rates; worse health outcomes; lower education levels and high income inequality. A Future Fund offers a way to prepare for a better future by converting nonrenewable resources wealth into a renewable source of wealth for generations to come.
Through public speaking engagements, a petition urging the West Virginia Legislature to create the fund, press conferences, videos, and Op-Ed commentaries – the coalition is working to unite unlikely partners to make West Virginia’s rich natural resources into a blessing that all citizens can enjoy. It is all too clear that without a plan for the future, the state is likely to continue to experience a lack of economic diversity, cycles of boom and bust and poor economic outcomes.
Bringing together labor groups, activists, community people, environmentalists, and youths interested in social change – all pushing for a common cause – AFSC has a chance to shock the system and change West Virginia for years to come!