Thursday, April 18, 2013

DFL legislature kicking our veterans to the curb

Billions of dollars in new taxes.  Taxes on beer, haircuts, home owners insurance, income, and even a temporary tax on high income earners.  But no money for Minnesota veterans?

The DFL budget proposed in the house calls for these tax hikes to fund over 2 billion dollars in new spending in the state, not to mention calling for another $800 million in bonding projects.  But among this orgy of new spending is one very glaring absence-the final $22 million to complete necessary upgrades to the Minneapolis Veterans Home.

Over 5 years ago, the governor and legislature agreed on a three phase series of renovations to the metro area veteran's home, with phase one having been funded and completed in 2012.  Phase two of the renovation has funding allocated, but the work is on hold until funding is allocated for pre-design of phase three.  Last year, the Republican led legislature deferred the $25 million total funding request because of the budget shortfalls Minnesota was facing, instead allocating $3 million to keep the project moving forward. This wasn't a popular decision with veterans, who were rightfully angry at having the project being kept in limbo.  But the reasoning was simple-the legislators felt the state couldn't afford the money last year.

But now, in 2013, the DFL legislature is proposing to fund every pet project under the sun.  With over $2 billion dollars in new taxes and spending planned, plus over $800 million in proposed bonding, the House can't find $22 million for the Minneapolis Veteran's Home? 

The renovations cover upgrades to basic services, making the veterans home more accessible to caregivers, and bringing the facility almost up to the standards of most private senior care facilities.  The men and women who are residents of this facility served their country with pride and were promised to be taken care of if they couldn't take care of themselves.  Funding every other project across the state while deliberately leaving out our veterans holding the bag is insulting and demeaning.  The $5.3 million in the bonding bill allocated to the MN Department of Veterans Affairs is just about the same that the Minnesota Zoo is getting, and less than 1/4 than the amount proposed to bond for the Board of Water and Soil Resources.

The Minnesota Commanders Task Force, a group of leaders from all of the veterans organizations across the state, has been asking patiently for this funding for the last 5 years.  Friday morning they will be holding a press conference to ask the legislature why veterans are being ignored in favor or pork barrel spending.  What will the DFL legislature say?

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