Friday, June 24, 2011

GOVERNOR: Governor Walker’s Budget for Veterans - Promises Kept

Governor Walker’s Budget for Veterans - Promises Kept

Restoring the Wisconsin GI Bill:

In 2006, a promise was made to the men and women who sign up to serve our nation in the military.  Since that time they have fought, been injured and far too many have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation.  While these heroes were fighting, a benefit promised to them was taken away.  The Wisconsin GI Bill, a landmark piece of legislation was effectively eliminated.

In Governor Walker’s budget, the Wisconsin GI Bill is ‘fully’ restored.  Not only is the Wisconsin GI Bill restored, but it is expanded and clarified to include distance learning and online courses.  

By protecting the Wisconsin GI Bill so veterans can retrain and rebuild their resumes they will be in a better position to find gainful employment and provide for their families that have also sacrificed so much for our nation.  

There is no greater benefit to our veterans struggling to find employment than the restoration of the WI GI Bill.  The restoration of the Wisconsin GI Bill is part of creating 250,000 jobs and keeping a promise to our honored veterans.

Ensuring the Solvency of the Veterans Trust Fund:

The solvency of the Veterans Trust Fund has been an issue for the better part of a decade.  When Governor Walker took office the balance of the trust fund was on a steady decline and projections had it in deficit at the end of the second fiscal year.  

Governor Walker’s budget provides $5 million general fund tax dollars to the Veterans Trust Fund.  This is the largest injection of general fund dollars to the fund since 1972.  The Governor’s budget also provides $416,800 in GPR to repay the raid on the fund by the previous administration and Legislature.

Governor Walker’s budget also gives the WDVA, with Legislative oversight, the flexibility to shift funds in surplus within the department to ensure the VTF remains a strong tool to assist our needy and honored veterans into the future.  The budget also requires WDVA to report a long term solvency plan for the fund to the Governor and Legislature.

Funding for Wisconsin’s Veterans Memorial Cemetery King:

Governor Walker’s budget provides $66,500 general fund revenue for maintenance of the Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery at King.  Previously, money from veteran’s estates and nursing home operations funds were used to maintain the 14 acre cemetery. 

Caring for More Veterans and Creating Jobs at No Cost to State Taxpayers:

The Governor’s budget keeps a promise made by the state to create a veterans home in Northwest Wisconsin.  The Chippewa Falls Veterans Home complements Wisconsin’s two existing Veterans Homes in King and Union Grove, bringing additional resources to our aging veterans in Northwestern Wisconsin.  Through construction of this facility, Wisconsin will be able to not only honor our aging heroes, but offer them a unique community built to address their unique needs.

In addition, the Veterans Home at Chippewa Falls is an economic win for the local community and taxpayers, providing a long term economic boost to the region.  It will help add vitality and opportunity to the Chippewa area’s construction industry.  The home will also create permanent health care jobs.

The Chippewa Veterans Home is a $20 million construction project that is estimated to create 90 full‐time professional jobs in the area without requiring any state general fund tax revenue.  A federal grant along with ongoing revenues from the home will pay for the entire project’s cost.  The home is also required to achieve a four star rating similar to the King and Union Grove homes ensuring our veterans are properly cared for.

By constructing the veteran’s home in Chippewa Falls, the Governor is continuing to fulfill our responsibility to the men and women who served their country and state so well.

Fully Funding the Veterans and Surviving Spouse Tax Credit:

In the Governor’s budget, the Veterans and Surviving Spouse Property Tax Credit is fully funded without reducing eligibility.  The tax credit benefit offered to our most vulnerable veterans and their spouses will increase to $39 million in the next biennium (2011‐13).  That is a $23.8 million increase in property tax credits over the next two years for eligible veterans.

Continuing the Disabled Veteran Business Certification Program:

Governor Walker’s budget continues the new disabled veteran business certification program.  The program will be housed in the new Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

Extending a Property Tax Relief Program to Veterans: 

Governor Walker’s budget allows eligible veterans to now participant in the property tax deferral loan program operated by the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority.  

Fully Funding Military Funeral Honors:

The Governor fully funds military funeral honors in the “bill to pay the bills”.  Assembly Bill 148 fully restored and funded $68,900 for military funeral honors.  Because military funeral honors were funded in AB 148, the repetitive language in the biennial budget bill was not needed and
therefore removed.

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