Amendment 1 makes sense for Nebraska


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By Chris Beutler Children. Families. Health care. Environmental protection. Progressive concerns are in jeopardy from a slowing economy and the ever-increasing pressures on government to reduce spending and lower taxes. How do we protect and preserve the Nebraska values that we hold dear? Amendment One is part of the answer. In 1997, the City of Lincoln sold a public asset for $37 million. The Community Health Endowment (CHE) was created with proceeds from the sale with the mission to make Lincoln the healthiest community in the nation. Since that time, nearly $11 million has funded critical public-health initiatives. Senior citizens and low-income families have been provided prescription drugs at little or no cost. The People’s Health Center was built, helping to replace emergency rooms as the medical homes for low-income families. CHE funding is increasing nutrition and decreasing barriers to medical transportation. It is opening new avenues for mental health services and working to close the dead end of meth abuse. CHE funding provides services across eastern and central Nebraska. Amendment One seeks to offer greater safety and protection to public endowment funds by updating obsolete language in the Nebraska Constitution. Currently, the constitution prohibits public endowment funds from being invested in a broader range of financial options, placing public endowment funds like the CHE at risk. Amendment One ends this outdated prohibition and adds language that ensures a community’s money is protected according to the “prudent investor standard,” a legal financial concept that protects the State of Nebraska’s and other publicly held retirement funds. Your local accountant, your financial adviser and even your neighbor who invests on the Internet will tell you that diversification is the “prudent” way to protect your money, whether it’s your children’s college fund, your IRA or a community’s public endowment. You risk all the hen gave when “all your eggs are in one basket.” The same holds true for endowment funds. The safest investment is a diversified approach that mixes stocks and bonds to minimize downturns and maximize growth opportunities in both the bond market and the stock market. Protecting community money isn’t the only advantage. Amendment One allows for not only safer investments but investments that grow faster. Under current practices allowed by the constitution, the average annual return has been 5 percent or less. In some years the returns haven’t even kept up with inflation. By contrast, the historical annual return for the investments that would be allowed under Amendment One is 9 percent - almost double. In 20 years, a community’s endowment fund would have nearly 80 percent more money to put toward local services, and would have grown twice as fast. In a period when communities struggle to preserve their environment, parks, pools, libraries and health-care services, it’s money we can’t afford to leave on the table. Cities across the state are exploring how their communities can benefit from public endowments. State Senator Tom Hansen urged his fellow citizens to vote FOR Amendment One in a recent North Platte Bulletin editorial. North Platte resident John Newburn bequeathed a generous financial gift to improve community parks. Senator Hansen stressed that Amendment One could double the Newburn funds, creating even more opportunities for North Platte’s children and families. Public endowments are smart investments in a community’s future. They provide support to local senior centers, parks and other amenities that make our cities and towns great places to live. They provide the services that change lives for the better, without raising taxes. That’s why U.S. Senator Ben Nelson and Attorney General Jon Bruning have agreed to serve as co-chairs for the Amendment One campaign. They share my belief that we have to act now to protect public funds. On May 13, I urge you to join Senator Nelson, Attorney General Bruning and me in voting FOR Amendment One. Your vote is critical in making our public endowments work safer, smarter and harder for the good things in your community. On the Web:

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