Thursday, October 29, 2020
Oct. 29, 2020

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In Our View: Approve Engrossed Senate Joint Resolution 8212

The Columbian
Published:

With a plethora of races involving candidates, ranging from president of the United States to the Clark County Charter Review Commission, voters probably are a little grateful to have a small slate of ballot measures to ponder this year.

But we urge voters to not overlook Engrossed Senate Joint Resolution 8212 when casting their votes. The Columbian Editorial Board recommends that this amendment to the state constitution be approved.

As always, this is merely a recommendation designed to provide information and draw attention to the resolution. We trust that voters will study the measure before casting an informed ballot.

Engrossed Senate Joint Resolution 8212 would allow the state’s Long Term Care Trust Fund to invest in the stock of private companies. Before getting into the details of the measure, it is worth noting that it passed the Legislature with votes of 45-3 in the Senate and 96-1 in the House of Representatives, indicating strong bipartisan support. All members of the Southwest Washington delegation voted in favor.

In 2019, lawmakers approved the trust fund to provide money for long-term care insurance. Washington employees will begin paying into the fund through a payroll deduction in 2022; those premiums will be deposited into a new Long-Term Services and Support Trust Account. Beginning in 2025, a Washington resident who requires assistance with three or more daily activities, such as eating or bathing, can apply for assistance from the fund, up to $36,500 during their lifetime.

“This benefit will be available for those who need it when the time comes to face the fact that daily living presents some challenges, and you need just a little help,” Gov. Jay Inslee said upon signing the bill. “This is going to make sure that help is there without bankrupting your family.”

The key now is to ensure the system has adequate funding to be self-sustaining. That is the goal behind Resolution 8212.

The state constitution prohibits investing public funds in private companies without a constitutional amendment. In the past, voters have approved such investments for public pension and retirement funds, industrial insurance funds, and funds that benefit residents with developmental disabilities. Resolution 8212 would add the long-term care fund to that list.

Under current law, public money that is not allowed to be invested in the stock market can only be held as cash or invested in short-term vehicles that typically are safer investments but yield relatively low returns.

For short-term investments, those might be the prudent path. But for long-range goals like those represented by the Long Term Care Trust Fund, it makes sense to seek a larger return. Yes, the stock market can take dips, but over time it has proven to be a wise investment. “With time, the investment returns are going to be such that we’ll appreciate it,” state Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville and co-sponsor of the bill, told The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review.

Investment of the funds would be overseen by the State Investment Board, which already manages other investments, including the state pension fund. “It’s what we do,” board spokesman Chris Phillips said. “Some level of risk is necessary in order to generate some level of investment return.”

Investing public funds in the stock market can, indeed, be a risky proposition. But proper oversight will provide benefits for all Washington residents.

The Columbian Editorial Board recommends that Engrossed Senate Joint Resolution 8212 be approved.

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