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E-M:/ Another idea for parks
Enviro-Mich message from jmgear <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I think there's a huge untapped reservoir of support for parks that
you're overlooking -- the money that park supporters in Michigan have in
their retirement funds (401(k), 457s etc.) and in the reserve funds of
groups they belong to.
Park financing is always framed as if the only way to raise money is
either to get a direct appropriation or to use the conventional finance
system of tax-free bonds to raise money.
We know that the state doesn't have any money to make direct appropriations.
And bonds, as we typically conceive of them, are designed for sale in
commercial markets, which requires paying commercially attractive rates
of return and also paying big dollars to guys who like to wear snappy
suits to handle the bonding.
Thus, the bonds are designed to be attractive to capital investors who
care nothing about how their investment is used, caring only about how
well it pays. Parks have a hard time playing because you can't both pay
the rates of return demanded by the investors and spend the money on
preserving the parks.
SUGGESTION: Create a program that lets anyone in Michigan (or, heck,
outside of Michigan) direct some of the money they are putting away for
retirement into a fund [under their IRA/401k or 457 plan] that is used
100% to support state parks.
The fund would essentially be long bonds, paying a low, but guaranteed
rate of return--i.e., bonds where the people know that they won't be
getting a competitive interest rate. But, in return for sacrificing
some interest points, people will be rewarded by knowing that they are
investing in the preservation of something that will make their state
better now, their retirement years richer, and will enable their
children and grandchildren to enjoy that same investment.
The same motivation that causes millions of people like me to pay more
for fair-trade coffee, clothes not produced in sweatshops, and to
voluntarily pay fees to offset the carbon they emit by driving (see
terrapass.com)--the desire to use our money to create a better world
rather than just maximize consumption--can be harnessed if you offer me
(and people like me) a way to direct a share of my retirement
investments toward supporting state parks, even though I would sacrifice
something in capital return on my investment.
I wouldn't give you 100% of my retirement investments, but I could
easily see moving 1-5% of my 401/457 money into something that provides
such a high psychic rate of return.
$90M over five years is only $18M per year, or $1.80 per Michigander per
year (rounding to 10 million of us).
And certainly many Michigan nonprofits (Elks, Eagles, Sierra Club,
Audobon, bike clubs, hunting groups, you name it) and churches have
reserve funds (endowments, building funds etc.) I bet a number of these
would be willing to accept a lower return on some of their money in
return for bonds that offer high security and the chance to support
If groups and individuals equal to only 1% of Michiganders --that is, a
total of 100,000 people or groups with investable assets -- are willing
to invest $900 in one go or just $180 per year over five years, then you
made your goal. For people paid weekly, $180 is just under $3.50 per
week. You could also accept rollovers from established IRAs, etc. If
people would make a single year's IRA investment with you ($3-4000), you
would need to attract far fewer people. Many groups could afford to buy
a lot more than that, and would appreciate the safety..
We know people in Michigan like to give money to support worthwhile
things in Michigan--witness the specialty license plates for
universities, lighthouse preservation, etc. Those are people who are
simply GIVING the money away. These park bonds, in contrast, would
preserve the original investment, thus providing a supersafe, federally
tax-exempt (albeit low return) investment.
Just a thought ...
Christopher Graham wrote:
Mr. Gear --
As a member of the State Park Citizen's Advisory Committee, I can
assure you that your suggestion was not only heard by staff and
members of the Committee, but that we already were working on that
idea and many other related ideas.
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