Wednesday, May 08, 2013

What is the DFL House thinking?

Lost among all the proposed tax increases, fee hikes, additional regulations and divisive social issues that is the 2013 session of the Minnesota legislature is that fact that there is a very real possibility that veterans in Minnesota will get royally screwed.  As I wrote last week, the House bonding bill very specifically includes no money for the last phase of the Minneapolis Veterans Home construction. 

A recent article in the TC Daily Planet highlights the bipartisan agreement on the need for this funding. Written by Tommy Johnson, known better to Minnesota conservatives as TwoPuttTommy, DFL activist and solid progressive-

May 07, 2013
With just two weeks to go before the legislature is constitutionally mandated to adjourn, funding for the Minneapolis Veterans Home construction project is in serious jeopardy for the second year in a row. The Minneapolis Veterans Home was founded in 1887 and is the oldest of the State's five Veterans Homes.
Last year in August a state of the art 100-room skilled nursing facility opened and replaced a condemned Depression-era building. That was Phase 1 of a 2009 Master Plan. Phase 2 called for the demolition and rebuilding of Building 17's north wing. This was funded in 2010 but the Phase 2 is contingent upon funding Phase 3, the demolition and rebuilding of that building's South Wing.
On April 23rd, Dayton spokesperson Katharine Tinucci reiterated support for the project, stating, "Governor Dayton has committed to funding the next phase of the Minneapolis Veterans Home in his last two bonding proposals."

Tommy Johnson and I don't agree on much of anything politically, but we do agree on the responsibility our nation and state have for caring for our veterans.  A Veteran's Home isn't an entitlement-it is an earned benefit that was promised to men and women who defended our freedom and our entire way of life.  Tommy, as a DFL activist, tried to get an answer about why the funding for the home is not in the bonding bill.

Although the House bonding bill does not contain funding for the Home, on the same day House Speaker Paul Thissen said, "The Minneapolis Veterans Home project will be part of the discussion this session as we work to pass a bonding bill that can be signed into law."
A request for comment to the DFL Senate Caucus was not returned. The 2010 DFL Ongoing Platform (amended 2012) states the party supports "Providing timely and sufficient funding to appropriate government agencies to honor all our obligations to active duty military and military veterans." A request for comment on the DFL's position on funding for Phase 3 of the Master Plan for the Minneapolis Veterans Home possibly being delayed for the 2nd session in a row was not returned.

The state commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars commented for the story about the ridiculousness of the situation; without secured funding for the last phase of the project, the current phase cannot be completed, and it will end up costing millions of dollars more.

Reached for comment on May 6, Lee Ulferts, chair of a group of veterans organizations called The Commander's Task Force, said, "The unfortunate thing is if we go ahead with Phase 2 without the assurance that Phase 3 will be completed the whole design of Phase 2 will have to be revisited, as it will mean dead ending electrical, sewer, gas and water. The cost to do this is not insignificant. To the Task Force, it just seems incomprehensible that proper funding for this home is not provided. And now it seems that we can dig into tax dollars to restore the State Capitol for $100 million plus but we still can't find the money to provide beds for 100 veterans. When did our priorities get so screwed up?"

This isn't a partisan issue-I criticized the GOP legislature for not including funding for the project last year.  They at least had the excuse of budget deficits to explain why they bonded less than the full amount.  This year, the DFL is looking to raise billions of dollars in new taxes-surely there is money for veterans?

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