Lately the news seems to be an endless loop of coverage on budget cuts and deficits. However, the state Legislature in Olympia has presented a solution to help ease this problem for Washington's universities.
On this November's ballot, the state's registered voters can vote on a Senate Joint Resolution 8223, which proposes a constitutional amendment that, if approved, would create more revenue for WSU and the UW.
The resolution reads, "This amendment would create an exception to constitutional restrictions on investing public funds by allowing these universities (WSU and the UW) to invest specified public funds as authorized by the legislature, including in private companies or stock."
The universities' goal is to create revenue without turning to taxpayers. With the change, the state constitution would no longer prohibit the investment of WSU's and the UW's public money in private stocks and bonds, and would grant more flexibility in their investing.
A constitutional amendment like SJR 8223 is necessary in times, like these, that demand the government and other institutions operate more like businesses and less like bureaucracies.
“The amendment was initially proposed by UW because they hold 11 billion dollars in their account that they would like to invest,"said Darin Watkins, WSU spokesman.
Although WSU has nowhere near that amount of money and would not see as much profit, the amendment would still prove beneficial over time.
In support of the change, Watkins said, “Short-term it won’t have much impact—long-term it will have significant impacts (in increasing university funds)."
Opponents of SJR 8223 argue that WSU and UW will have the choice of making money or providing basic operational services, and they will choose to invest in the stock market rather than put funds toward university improvements.
What opponents do not understand is that the university is bound by other obligations — obligations this amendment would not change — to provide those basic services. The universities receive their operational budget from state general funds and tuition money, which SJR 8223 would not touch.
Instead, the money the universities invest comes from “local university funds from the schools'research grants, patient and medical revenues and fees from parking, housing and food services,” according to The Seattle Times.
SJR 8223 opponents also claim university funds should not be gambled, and they fear the repercussions if the universities lose money in their investments.
“WSU will only look into making secure investments, such as U.S. treasury bonds,” Watkins said.
In other words, WSU has little to no chance of losing money if it makes conservative and modest investments.
In reality, WSU is actually losing funds by letting their money sit. This is partly due to inflation, but largely because idle cash not earning a return is wasteful.
Chris Mulick, WSU director of state relations, summed it up in an interview when he said SJR 8223 answers the question, “How can we stretch that dollar even further?”
SJR 8223 was largely approved by the state legislators, who believe it will serve to benefit universities. Unfortunately, it is still at a risk of being overlooked by voters, which would move WSU’s and UW’s investment tactics back to square one.
Support our university and higher education by voting "Yes" Nov. 6 on SJR 8223, and provide WSU and UW the investment freedom they need to create new sources of income. It is a long-term revenue strategy worth tackling.