If passed, Oregon Ballot Measure 95 would allow public universities to invest state funds in equities.
The proposed measure comes in response to Oregon Senate Bill 270, which passed in 2013. Bill 270 granted public universities the authority to manage much of their own finances, but a provision in the Oregon State Constitution prevents them from fully exercising that authority.
Currently, Section 6, Article XI of the Oregon Constitution contains a list of limitations to the state’s ability to hold or invest in stock. Measure 95 would amend the state constitution to exclude public universities from those restrictions.
“What the measure really allows the university to do is to take not endowment funds but regular state funds and essentially bring them out to the stock market,” said Daniel HoSang, an Associate Political Science Professor at the University of Oregon.
Investing in equities would allow universities to diversify their funding. The Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet terms this a ‘risk management tool.’
According to Richard Fisher, a financial advisor with D.A. Davidson & Co. member SIPC, the term ‘risk management tool’ means universities would be using multiple ways of investing to optimize their return. However, because the money would be invested in different ways, only portions of the money could be lost at any given time, lowering the risk and doing away with an all or nothing situation.
Measure 95 has received support in the form of a written statement from three public university presidents, Michael Schill from UO, Edward Ray from Oregon State University and Tom Insko from Eastern Oregon University.
“Oregonians want our universities to provide a quality education and help more middle-class Oregonians access a post-secondary degree,” the statement reads. “Measure 95 will support this public mission.”
There are no opposition arguments to Measure 95 in the voters’ pamphlet, nor was there much opposition to Bill 270 when it originally passed. Bill 270 was passed by the Oregon Senate with a final count of 25 in favor and four against in July of 2013.
According to HoSang, the intent behind Measure 95 is for universities to raise part of their capital through investments, meaning they will be less likely to need funding from the legislature. However, HoSang also said there is reason to be concerned when “an institution that is supposed to be public is so heavily dependent on the private sector and the private market.”