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Future Fund signed into law

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By Shauna Johnson
WV MetroNews

Legislation creating the West Virginia Future Fund, a type of endowment fund for the years ahead drawing from a portion of present-day severance tax collections, will become law in June.

State officials said it could be 2019, though, before the first deposits are made into that account.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed SB 461 into law on Thursday at the State Capitol.

For several years, Senate President Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall, 2) introduced the proposal, which the Legislature approved this year, as a way to save some of the additional money the state is collecting through natural gas developments in the Marcellus shale.

Beginning on July 1 and annually after that, three percent of the state’s annual severance tax collections — those from coal, limestone, sandstone, natural gas, and oil — that would have gone into the general fund is, instead, set to be deposited into the Future Fund.

The final version of the legislation includes a list of limitations on when those deposits can be made.  For example, in years when the Rainy Day Fund is tapped to balance the budget or mid-year spending reductions and hiring freezes are implemented, no severance tax money will go into the Future Fund.

Once deposits are made, it will be 2020 before investment income from the account can be accessed.

That investment income is earmarked for education, workforce development, economic development, infrastructure or tax relief projects.