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Originally published August 23, 2012 at 6:02 PM | Page modified August 23, 2012 at 9:40 PM

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The Times recommends: Approve SJR 8223, lift limits on UW, WSU investments

Senate Joint Resolution 8223 would lift restrictions on the UW's and WSU's ability to invest certain public funds in private companies or stock. That's a smart idea whose time has come.

Seattle Times Editorial

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Voters should approve an important constitutional amendment on the general-election ballot that could create more revenue for the University of Washington and Washington State University.

Senate Joint Resolution 8223 would lift age-old investment restrictions on the schools, allowing them more flexibility and diversity in investing. The goal is more revenue without turning to taxpayers.

The UW and WSU have done well investing their endowment and private funds. But they have been restricted in how they invest certain other university assets.

Funds targeted for investment should not be confused with state general funds or tuition money, neither of which would fall under SJR 8223's investment change.

Rather, the money intended for investment are local university funds from the schools' research grants, patient and medical revenues and fees from parking, housing and food services. Construction funds, insurance reserves and earnings from merchandising agreements are also included.

University leaders need the investment flexibility. They recognize that keeping more than a billion dollars in a checking account is not the way to maximize funds.

Of the money SJR 8223 seeks to make eligible for investment, the schools would turn over about 10 percent to the Washington State Investment Board for investing in bonds, securities and stocks.

Good to strong returns over time could turn that portion into $10 million a year in additional revenue for the schools. That's a long-term revenue strategy worth undertaking.

Restrictions on investing public funds have been lifted before, including for timber revenues that support higher education, for funds paying for public-school improvements and for a trust fund for people with developmental disabilities.

The university-investments constitutional amendment was approved overwhelmingly by the state Legislature. But it is just technical enough to risk being overlooked by voters. That would be a shame. The UW and WSU need this freedom to help build new revenue streams.

Vote yes Nov. 6 on SJR 8223.

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