UPDATE: Tomblin approves Future Fund bill - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

UPDATE: Tomblin approves Future Fund bill

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UPDATE March 20:

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed the Senate Bill 461, creating the Future Fund, into law on March 20.

Senate President Jeffrey Kessler, D-Marshall, was on-hand to witness the governor's signature. He was the lead sponsor on the bill and had been pushing for the bill for several years.

Tomblin received the bill March 17.

UPDATE March 8:

The Future Fund bill got the final nod from the West Virginia Senate and has been sent to the governor for his approval.

After some debate from Senators worried about how it would impact the coal industry, Senate Bill 461 completed the legislative process just after 11 p.m. March 8.

The West Virginia House of Delegates amended Senate Bill 461, the Future Fund bill, to change the original bill's 25 percent oil and gas severance tax collections.

The measure calls for a baseline rate of 3 percent would be used in all severance tax, not just oil and gas.

However, the House of Delegates added several stipulations to how the money could be used.

The House added that, if the general revenue budget, which is normally around 13.5 percent, is at 13 percent or less, no money goes into the fund.

Sen. Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, said the amendment from the House means no deposits would be taken from the fund until 2019, or fiscal year 2020.

The fund can also not be touched if the governor has to take from the Rainy Day Fund or there is a midyear hiring freeze.

Original Story:

When the proposal for a Future Fund came to the floor of the House of Delegates for debate, several amendments to the House Finance Committee amendment were offered.

One of the proposed amendments to the amendment would add language in regard to spending the principal of the fund and would require a 2/3 vote of both chambers. The language would also allow no more than 15 percent of principal to be appropriated at one time.

Delegate Ron Walters, R-Kanawha, rose in support of that amendment to the amendment, saying it is "imperative that we have a super majority vote before any expenditures could be used."

Walters, who accompanied several other delegates to North Dakota to learn more about North Dakota's future fund, said he found the public accepted a super majority vote rather than a majority vote.

Minority leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, also rose in support of the amendment to the amendment.

Without the amendment, Armstead said the Future Fund would simply be another account and the money in it spent like any other appropriation.

"We need something to make (the money) harder to spend and allocate," he said.

Another benefit of adopting the amendment to the amendment, Armstead said, is the fact that it's a "compromise between a constitutional amendment and being just another expenditure."

Senate Joint Resolution 14 was rejected by the House, which would have provided a constitutional amendment to create a Future Fund.

"It's a reasonable and responsible way to put a safeguard in here," Armstead said.

Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha, also acknowledged the proposed amendment to the amendment was a compromise between the rejected constitutional amendment and the normal 50 percent threshold necessary for statutory change.

Proponents of the amendment to the amendment said that by adopting it, the fund would instill confidence in the future, with the possibility of future support for a constitutional amendment.

Delegate Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, spoke in opposition to the proposed amendment to the amendment, saying he felt it would "unduly handcuff legislators."

The amendment to the amendment was rejected.

An amendment by Armstead that clarified a definition, was adopted, as well as a strike and insert amendment.

The bill passed the House by a vote of 91 to five, but because of the changes the House made to the bill, the Senate must decide whether or not to concur before the bill can complete the legislative process.

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