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After Coal, W.Va. Push For Natural Gas Trust Fund

Getting a constitutional amendment on the ballot requires super-majority support in both legislative chambers, and Kessler said he thinks that is attainable.

"Rather than pouring it all into the General Revenue fund and spending every dime we get and wake up 20 years from now and say, 'What did we do with all that money,' we could say, 'Hey, we put it in the bank and put some aside," he said.

That could be welcome money for a state struggling on many fronts.

In July, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said West Virginia ranked among the worst four states for life expectancy and healthy life expectancy. In June, a report by the national KIDS COUNT project â¿¿ backed by Annie E. Casey Foundation â¿¿ found that 26 percent of West Virginia's children live in poverty. The report also said West Virginia's educational system ranks fourth-worst in the nation, citing in part a lack of quality pre-kindergarten programs.

And while West Virginia has been a coal-producing powerhouse for generations, Kessler noted, some of its most economically stressed areas are in the heart of the coalfields.

"When the (coal) seams got thinner and the jobs were done, there was just nothing to sustain their communities," Kessler said. "I don't want to see that happen again ... when I see another golden opportunity where we have something in great supply and enormous demand."

______

Associated Press writers Becky Bohrer in Juneau, Alaska, and James MacPherson in Bismarck, N.D., contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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