Op-Ed: Severance tax fund critical for WV’s future

As more coal miners are laid off and coal companies go bankrupt, the question of what will become of Central Appalachia's economy becomes even more critical. We've posted commentaries and articles recently calling for diversification, new development strategies and thoughtful conversation about the region's future. One idea to help fund the long-term economic development of the region is coal severance tax permanent funds, which have been proposed in both Kentucky and West Virginia. Earlier this week, the Charleston Gazette featured an op-ed outlining the need for a "Future Fund" that would invest natural gas and coal severance taxes into an endowment for economic development. 

One way that we can ensure that coal and other natural resources like natural gas will always play an important role in our state's economy is to create a permanent mineral trust fund or a Future Fund. Such a fund would help our state turn nonrenewable assets into a source of sustainable wealth. It will allow us to meet future challenges by investing in critical physical and human infrastructure that will diversify and expand our state's economy. It is a positive future for coal and natural gas, and one that we can all agree on and count on.

The op-ed rightly calls out politicians who are less interested in planning for the future and more interested in scoring political points:
For far too long, the dialogue on coal's future and its impact in West Virginia has been an arena for simplistic and antagonistic politics. This hostile political environment has polarized our state and has led some miners and working families to wrongly believe that if we could just get rid of EPA regulations then the future of coal would be bright in the Mountain State.
As Rockefeller said, West Virginians deserve better. They deserve to have people in power who are not guided by fear but by evidence and the public good.
The key, of course, is getting our elected officials to move beyond the finger-pointing and to stop circling the wagons around the coal industry at the expense of the people of Central Appalachians.