No one knows how much of a windfall will accrue to the state of West Virginia as a result of the still-building natural gas boom. It is known enormous amounts of gas, hopefully worth mountains of cash, lie underneath our hills and valleys.
State legislators wisely have begun discussing how to handle revenue flowing into government coffers from fees and taxes paid by the gas industry.
One idea, promoted by state Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, has been to establish a West Virginia Future Fund. A portion of "excess" revenue collected from the gas industry would go into the account, for use in meeting the state's needs, such as those for highway repair, in the future.
Under a bill in the state Senate, 25 percent of additional tax revenue from the gas industry would go into the fund. It would be invested for 20 years. Proceeds could be used only for purposes such as tax relief and education, as has been successful in other gas producing states.
Kessler's plan has some appeal, especially given worry over infrastructure needs in the future. Funds available for highway maintenance, for example, are hundreds of millions of dollars short of meeting needs.
Legislators should consider the possibility of tax relief carefully as an economic development tool. In many ways, that could be the best use of any windfall from gas drilling.
One use of the money should be rejected. It should not be used to establish new programs that would be a continuing drag on the budget. West Virginia has plenty of budget challenges ahead without creating new ones based on an uncertain source of new revenue.