The basic idea is pretty simple, although it could be done in many different ways: set aside a portion of severance taxes for the fund, allow it to build over time and use the interest to fund vital projects. Several states, mostly out west, have already done this and are reaping the benefits.
As a new report from the Center on the subject argues,
Without a permanent fund, the economic benefit from the natural resource extraction will decline along with the natural resources themselves.
A bill to do something like that has been introduced in the state senate, where it was sponsored by senate president Jeff Kessler. Here's hoping the bill makes it. Forward thinking like this is long overdue in West Virginia.
As I've said before in an op-ed for the Gazette, if WV had done something like this decades ago with coal, the southern part of the state might look like Shangri-la by now.