Thursday, April 16, 2015

Legislature asked to bail out Walker's underfunding of the vets

Budget hearings at the Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee continue tomorrow, and one of the items that'll come up is the Veterans Trust Fund. As the Legislative Fiscal Bureau's paper on the Vets Trust Fund and the Veteran Mortgage Loan Repayment Fund explains
The veterans trust fund (VTF) is a segregated fund for the support of programs benefiting Wisconsin veterans and their families, and for promoting interests of veterans. The fund receives revenues from various sources, including repayments of loans made under the personal loan program, federal grants, and receipts from sales at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum. In 2013-14, the VTF had total revenues of $4.0 million (excluding a $5.3 million transfer from the general fund) and total expenditures of $11.9 million.

The veterans mortgage loan repayment fund (VMLRF) is a segregated fund for the administrative expenses related to the veterans primary mortgage loan program and the home improvement loan program and for debt service payments on bonds issued for making loans under those programs. Revenues are derived from loan repayments. In 2013-14, the VMLRF had total revenues of $24.7 million and total expenditures of $29.7 million.
And those financial statements illustrate the problem- these programs are spending more money than they're taking in, so they need to get another source for those additional funds. Combined with other related programs that involve the Veterans Trust Fund, and the LFB says the state has to come up with $8 million in 2015-16 and $13.5 million in 2016-17 to keep these programs going.

So what was Governor Walker's solution in the state budget? LET THE LEGISLATURE FIGURE IT OUT. Here are a couple of the moves they could make to save some Veterans Fund money.
13. The veterans tuition reimbursement program provides grants to qualifying veterans whose education expenses are not covered under federal education programs or the state's University of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Technical College tuition remission programs for veterans. Expenditures under the program have declined significantly in recent years, likely as a result of more veterans receiving assistance through the federal Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. In 2011-12, the total amount expended for the tuition reimbursement program was $992,000, but that had declined to $468,100 in 2013-14, and spending is on pace to be less than $400,000 in 2014-15. Given this decline, the Committee may want to adjust the appropriation to more accurately reflect anticipated spending. Base funding for the program is $1,403,100. The bill would reduce funding by $750,000 in 2015-16, providing $653,100 in that year, but would retain base funding in 2016-17. Based on expenditure trends, an appropriation of $500,000 would likely provide sufficient funding to meet anticipated demand under the program. This adjustment would be an appropriation decrease of $153,100 SEG in 2015-16 and $903,100 SEG in 2016-17, relative to the bill [Alternative B1a].

14. The assistance to needy veterans program provides subsistence aid and assistance with the purchase of dentures, hearing aids, and eye glasses for eligible veterans and their families who have income below 180% of the federal poverty level. The program would be funded at the base level of $970,000 annually under the bill, but expenditures for grants under the program have averaged just $420,000 over the past three years. An annual reduction to this appropriation of $470,000 would provide $500,000 annually, which would likely provide sufficient budget authority to make grants during the 2015-17 biennium [Alternative B1b]. If insufficient funds are provided in this appropriation, the Department is authorized to make a request to the Committee for supplemental funding under a 14-day passive review process.
While this sounds bad on the surface ("You cut these programs for vets????"), it does seem that this is an appropriate place for savings, since the funds are unlikely to be spent anyway. That still leaves another $19.5 million that has to be filled in.

Among the options include using excess funds from the three State Veterans Homes to fill the hole (instead of adding services and/or staff at the homes, which sure was necessary 3 years ago when the vets' home at King was massively understaffed with elderly vets being forced to put up with a scandalously bad situation. You can see why Walker didn't want to put that into the budget and bring that mess back into the public's consciousness. Nor did he want to use General Fund money for the $21.5 million to make the Vets Trust Fund whole, because this budget is so tight it doesn't have the wiggle room. So instead, Scotty just laid the Vets Trust Fund and related information at the feet of the Legislature, and took off to galavant around the country bragging about all the "tough decisions" he's made here in Wisconsin.

So let's see what the Legislature does, and what types of transfers and tricks they have to pull to solve this underfunding of Vets' Fund issues that Scott Walker has allowed to go on for 5 years. And I bet no one else in the "legitimate" media will even mention it, which is just what warmongering Scotty wants.

1 comment:

  1. Tim Russel is out of jail. Maybe the SKWalker will put him in charge of the VTF.