Today, Governor Walker announced a number of veterans-related budget initiatives totaling $43.3 million.
"Our servicemen and women are willing to put service before self," said Governor Walker. "While we've worked hard to honor our veterans and assist them during the transition back to civilian life, there is much more we can do for those who have given so much."
Under Governor Walker's leadership, the state GI Bill was restored, preferential hiring of disabled veterans was expanded, and the Disabled Veteran Employment Tax Credit was signed into law. The Governor intends to continue improving the lives of veterans and their families by addressing the health services that are available, looking at the solvency of the Veterans Trust Fund, and by focusing on getting our veterans back to work.
Governor Walker's budget proposal:
· Extends the Veterans and Surviving Spouse Property Tax Credit to unremarried surviving spouses whose husband or wife died of a service-connected disability.
· Improves the Veterans Trust Fund long-term solvency by adding an additional $5.3 million of state taxpayer resources.
· Improves the Wisconsin GI Bill by eliminating the arbitrary time limit for spouses and dependent children to use the benefit and expanding the program to veterans with at least 5 years of residency.
· Adds 110 new full-time direct care staff at our King Veterans' home to ensure our aging heroes and their families receive the care they need and deserve.
· Exempts our state veterans' homes from the nursing home bed tax, which saves our homes an estimated $4 million over the biennium.
· Makes funds for Military Funeral Honors sum sufficient to ensure resources are available now and into the future.
· Ensures affordable access to the state's natural resources by building on existing programs, which provide low-cost or free hunting and fishing licenses to disabled veterans and active duty service members on leave. The Governor recommends issuing vouchers to returning service members to redeem for free hunting and fishing licenses within a year of returning from active duty and supports providing a free one-year state parks and trails pass to active duty military personnel on leave. Additionally, the Governor's budget waives state park and trail admission fees for all veterans on Memorial Day and Veterans Day weekends.
· Makes the Disabled Veteran Employment Tax Credit permanent, which provides an incentive for employers to hire disabled veterans, saves money in the UI Trust Fund, and assists getting our injured heroes jobs.
· Increases funding to Camp American Legion to continue to provide free services to military members and their families suffering from physical or psychological conditions.
· Increasing funding to our state veteran service organizations that provide assistance to veterans and their families.
· The Governor recommends fully funding the routine operations and maintenance of the current Veterans Museum. After years of planning, the state is developing a new facility to house the State Historical Museum and the State Veterans Museum--the budget proposal provides funding and positions to safely move the museum's archives to the newly built preservation and storage facility.