September 20, 2017

What if?

The descendants of the Vikings figured out a thing or two.

Not so long ago, I, along with lots of good folks and a very impressive coalition,  spent a good bit of time and effort trying to get the state of West Virginia to pass legislation creating a Future Fund. This would have involved setting aside a portion of state severance tax revenue, allowing it to build, and using the interest as a permanent source of wealth for the state.

The bill passed in 2014. Ish. Unfortunately, it was sabotaged in the House of Delegates (at a time when Democrats held the majority in both houses) and basically made unworkable for the foreseeable future. Since there, there's been a political earthquake or three and a big dip in coal production and gas prices.

I'm still hopeful that the Future Fund can be made workable at some point. And I can't help thinking about how different West Virginia would have been today if one had been set up years ago.

Case in point: Norway. When that country experienced an oil boom, those socialistic Vikings were smart enough to set aside a portion of their revenue for pensions and public expenses. Apparently they were smart enough to figure out that this stuff you take out of the ground doesn't grow back (at least for several million years).

Today, that fund is worth $1 trillion. Yes, that would be the number with 12 zeros. It's worth about $190,000 for each resident of Norway.

I know there's no way WV's version would  have been anywhere near that even if we started decades ago. But we would have been in better shape than we are now.