On Wednesday, January 18th, the Capitol was truly a hub of activity as veterans from all across Iowa visited Des Moines to talk to legislators. I had the opportunity to visit with gentlemen from Cherokee, Kingsley and Aurelia. They shared some valuable information with me, and I am always impressed with the way these folks handle themselves when they deal with legislators. They are kind and respectful, and they are always smiling. In an era where my generation is either grumpy or complaining, I really admire these great Americans. Also, on Wednesday, January 18, the House approved a supplemental appropriations bill dealing with veterans' issues. This comes after the Appropriations Committee last week approved a bill to increase the amount to be repaid to the Senior Living Trust Fund (SLTF).
Four provisions of the Governor's supplemental appropriation request dealt with veterans' issues: $3 million deappropriation to the Veterans Home due to increased Medicaid dollars, $2 million for a new disabled veterans' payment program, $1 million to supplement the veterans' home buyers program, and $75,000 for National Guard tuition assistance.
Due to the immediate need for the supplemental for the veterans' home buyers program, the decision was made to do a "clean" supplemental bill for veterans. The includes a deappropriation of $3 million to the Veteran's Home, an appropriation of $2 million for veterans' home buyers program (because the need is greater than the Governor's request) and an appropriation of $1 million for the new disabled veterans' payment program, contingent on the new Veterans Affairs Committee approving the policy for the program. It was determined that the $75,000 for tuition assistance was not needed in FY 06 so it was left out of the bill.
The bill also included intent language stating that the Legislature would appropriate at least $3 million from the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF) for building projects at the Veterans' Home.
The bill, HF 2080, was approved by a unanimous vote in committee and approved by the full House by a vote of 95-0 on Wednesday, January 18, which was Veterans' Day at the Capitol. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved an identical companion bill and the full Senate sent the bill to the Governor on Wednesday afternoon. The Governor is expected to sign the bill within the next few days.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, January 10th, the House Appropriations Committee approved HF 2002, which increases the amount of the repayment to the Senior Living Trust Fund (SLTF). Currently, the Code requires that $118 million be repaid to the SLTF. HF 2002 increases the amount to $300 million. The reason for the $300 million figure is that when the SLTF was established, the Governor and Legislature hoped to have a $300 million fund in order to improve assisted living conditions for our seniors. This bill restores the original vision of the SLTF and is part of the House Republican plan to keep seniors from leaving the state.
HF 2002 was approved on a unanimous vote and now goes to the House floor for debate.