AFSC’s West Virginia Economic Justice (WVEJ) program won a major victory in the 2014 state legislative session with the passage of a measure establishing a Future Fund, a permanent mineral trust fund created from a portion of natural resource severance taxes. “This is a campaign we’ve worked on with key allies for about four years,” WVEJ Director Rick Wilson said. “The bill is not perfect because it was amended and weakened late in the session, but we hope to strengthen it next year. Just getting the legislation passed is huge because the Future Fund will allow the state to convert non-renewable resources into a renewable source of wealth that will help build a more stable, viable future for generations to come.”
West Virginia currently is experiencing a natural gas boom similar to that of the coal industry in the last century. “We missed the boat with coal,” Rick explained. “Other states with extractive industries have benefited economically from the creation of mineral trust funds while we have been shipping our coal wealth out of West Virginia.”
As a result, the state’s coal counties have been subject to extreme economic boom and bust cycles that have resulted in lower median household incomes; higher family poverty rates; worse health outcomes; lower education levels and higher income inequality. “If we had had a Future Fund during the 20th century, West Virginia would now be one of the nation’s richest states, instead of one of its poorest,” Rick said. “We can’t go back to 1920 and redo things, but we can make sure we create a brighter economic future for this generation and beyond. The Future Fund is a giant step forward.”
Looking for other articles featured in the South Star? Find this issue here.