Washington Investment of Public University Funds, Substitute HJR 4215 (2007)

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The Washington Rules Regarding Investment of Public University Funds Amendment, also known as Substitute House Joint Resolution 4215, was on the November 6, 2007 ballot in Washington as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, where it was approved. The measure permitted the legislature to decide what investments would be permitted for higher education permanent funds.[1] The measure amended Article XVI of the Washington Constitution.[2]

Election results

Washington Sub. HJR 4215 (2007)
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 831,669 54.45%
No695,66345.55%

Election results via: Washington Secretary of State

Text of measure

See also: Washington State Constitution, Article XVI

The language appeared on the ballot as:[1]

The legislature has proposed a constitutional amendment on investment of higher education permanent funds.

This amendment would authorize the investment of money in higher education permanent funds as permitted by law, and would permit investment in stocks or bonds issued by any company, if authorized by law.

Should this constitutional amendment be:

Approved [ ] Rejected [ ][3]

Support

Arguments

The following reasons were given in support of Sub. HJR 4215 in the Washington 2007 Voters' Guide:[1]

SHJR 4215: HELPING SUPPORT OUR STATE COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES

Washington State manages several "permanent funds" for the benefit of its institutions of higher education. These permanent funds hold money derived from the lease and sale of lands that were set aside for Washington’s colleges and universities when it became a state. The earnings on these permanent funds are used for the construction and maintenance of our colleges and universities.

Our Constitution limits the investment of these permanent funds to instruments such as government bonds, resulting in very low returns. The Constitution has been amended three times to remove these restrictions from the State’s common school (K-12) permanent fund; from the State’s public pension funds, retirement funds and the industrial insurance fund; and from State funds held in trust for persons with developmental disabilities. By removing these restrictions those funds now provide greater benefits to taxpayers, retirees, employees and employers, and to persons with disabilities and their families. It is time to remove these restrictions from the permanent funds held for our colleges and universities as well.

SHJR 4215 will allow the State’s higher education permanent funds to be invested in any manner authorized by the Legislature. This will allow those funds to produce a greater return for our colleges and universities and will ease the potential burden on taxpayers. The investments will be managed by investment professionals with the State Investment Board, which is bound by the highest fiduciary investment standards.

SHJR 4215: COMMON SENSE INVESTMENT IN OUR FUTURE

Vote Yes on SHJR 4215 to provide a more secure future for our colleges and universities.[3]

The arguments in favor of Sub. HJR 4215 were prepared by:[1]

  • Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney, State Representative, 46th Legislative District
  • Mark Schoesler, State Senator, 9th Legislative District
  • Ken Alhadeff, member – WSU Board of Regents, Chairman – Elttaes Enterprises
  • Daniel J. Evans, former Governor, Washington State

Opposition

Arguments

The following reasons were given in opposition to Sub. HJR 4215 in the Washington 2007 Voters' Guide:[1]

SHJR 4215 PLACES UNIVERSITY TRUST FUNDS AT RISK.

These funds should remain in stable investments that support families and communities, instead of gambling them in the stock market to create profits for stockbrokers.

Why are our university trust funds currently protected by our Constitution? When Washington became a state in 1889, Congress dedicated state lands to benefit the state’s public universities. This means that the income generated by these lands will be available to support Washington’s public universities –forever. We have a duty to safeguard this income for the benefit of future generations.

Why do sponsors of SHJR 4215 want to amend our Constitution? They want to undo legal protections on university trust funds in the hope of hitting it big in the stock market. Currently, that investment strategy is unconstitutional and illegal.

Why does our Constitution prohibit investment of most public funds in the stock market? The founders of our state wanted to protect money that belongs to the public–protect it from high stakes gambles–so they required the voters to approve a constitutional amendment before public funds can be put at significant risk in the stock market.

Why should I vote NO on SHJR 4215? Putting funds in the stock market may bring in big money, or be totally lost forever. Right now these funds are safely invested to bring in steady revenue to support universities now and in the future. Don’t let our university trust funds end up like the losing ticket on the racetrack floor. Vote NO on this constitutional amendment.[3]

The arguments against Sub. HJR 4215 were prepared by:[1]

Media editorial positions

Support

  • The Seattle Times said, "YES to more investment flexibility for higher-ed institutions."[4]
  • The Stranger said, "HJR 4215, gives the state more options when investing money in higher education. Vote Yes."[5]
  • The Spokesman-Review said, "Higher education needs every dime it can get. The state’s legislators – only two voted no – agreed the change translates to wise fiscal stewardship. Voters should give this one a yes vote, too."[6]

Opposition

  • No media editorials could be located opposing the measure.

Path to the ballot

In accordance with the Washington Constitution, the Senate and House approved the proposal by a two-thirds vote before submitting the measure to the voters. The following is the results of the legislature's votes:[1]

Yeas Nays Absent Excused
Senate 45 0 0 4
House 96 2 0 0

See also

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