Channel 3000: Secretary: Proposed State Budget Falls Short Of Meeting Veterans’ Needs

Department Head Speaks About Potential Impact

March 18, 2011- The head of the state Department of Veterans Affairs said the proposed state budget won't cover veterans' needs while Gov. Scott Walker countered that his plan puts the department in better shape.

Secretary Ken Black sent a letter to the governor this week expressing concerns about his budget proposal. Black met with veterans in Dodge County on Thursday night to talk about these issues and other concerns facing veterans.

Black said he's specifically worried about the Veterans' Trust Fund, which pays for services including job training, military honors programs and others, going broke at the end of the biennium if it doesn't get an infusion of funds from the state government.

"I know the governor has a difficult job to do in getting us back into the green, so to speak, or reducing our deficit. I understand that," said Black. "But, this organization has additional problems on top of the challenges we've had in the past, so we need additional dollars."

Walker said his budget keeps the fund solvent, adjusts for how much is actually spent on services and allows the department to use savings from $13 million in potential union concessions called for under the budget repair bill.

State Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, the co-chair of the Legislature's budget-writing committee, said while he's keeping an open mind about the proposal, he thinks the ideas are good.

"We have got no doubt the adequacy of the Veterans' Trust Fund is going to be maintained through the end of the next biennium, but just to ensure that we do give the Veterans Affairs Department the flexibility to manage their own budget by going in and saying if they have a surplus in one fund, they can send it to another fund that is getting heavier utilization," said Vos.

The governor's budget does infuse about $400,000 that was lapsed from the fund in the last budget, but also reduces the VA spending authority by $2.7 million after the governor's office re-estimated how much was being spent from the fund. Black said doing that is essentially managing money that is only veteran's affairs revenues, and that the re-estimates aren't accurate.

"We have looked at the budget. We did crunch the numbers," said Black. "Nobody came to us and asked us about the budget, so someone produced the budget that the governor has got in a vacuum."


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