The Cap Times: Grass Roots: Fallout on veterans fuels insider critique of state budget

March 19, 2011- There's got to be lots of talk behind the closed doors of state government offices about the challenges of making it work under Gov. Scott Walker's controversial spending plan. We know rank and file workers in spitting distance of retirement are getting out while the getting is good. But barely a peep of concern from state government brass over the impact of the budget on services has gone public.

Into the void steps the secretary of the state's troubled Department of Veterans Affairs, who says proposed cuts to his agency would hurt veterans.

Ken Black is in the rare position of not depending on the governor for his job, but on the Board of Veterans Affairs that appoints him, and he's airing his concerns about the Walker budget right on the department website.

In a letter posted earlier this week, he says the budget does not reflect the state's historic "commitment to provide the benefits and services our veterans need and deserve."

Black is concerned, he says, the budget does not act to preserve the Veterans Trust Fund, where officials have known for years that earnings can't keep pace with service demands, by providing more money for veterans services. Instead funds dedicated to the state's nursing homes for veterans would be diverted to subsidize other services and fill the trust fund deficit, he says, and funding for veterans assistance programs would be cut by 53 percent. What's more, the operation of a planned new veterans home in Chippewa Falls would be privatized.


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