One bright spot in an otherwise lackluster state budget, at least for north state veterans, is the continued inclusion of $10.6 million in funding to open — finally — the Northern California Veterans Home in Redding and a similar facility in Fresno.
Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber), Vice Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, praised the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee for adopting the proposal previously passed by the Assembly Budget Committee to fund the Veterans Homes.
Nielsen, however, expressed his continued disappointment regarding the Democrat proposed State Budget discussed yesterday during an Assembly Budget Committee hearing.
“There are many things to dislike about the budget plan being cobbled together behind closed doors by the Democrats at the State Capitol. For starters, the Democrats’ budget plan is being crafted behind closed doors, without accountability to taxpayers or the news media, and yesterday the Budget Committee did not even take a vote on the budget, and will not before the budget comes to the floor of the Assembly on Friday. Taxpayers deserve better,” said Nielsen.
“But there is one positive thing in a dire budget which is based on gimmicks and shifting of funds and taxes. That is the proposed inclusion of funds for opening both the Redding and Fresno Veterans Homes. One of my most important budget priorities over the last four years has been working to secure the funding necessary to open our new Veterans Home in Redding.”
Nielsen said that last year, the Legislature took a short-sighted budget action to cut funding to open the veterans home in Redding, along with a new one being finished in Fresno. This cut amounted to $12.1 million in the budget, which is peanuts in a budget approaching close to $92 billion in spending.
“Not only is restoring the funds the right thing to do in following through with a commitment to our heroes, but these homes are completed and ready to operate and keeping them vacant for other two years would create more problems for which we would have to account at a later time,” said Nielsen.
“In the coming days, I am hopeful that our local Veterans homes will receive the funding they need. But, as it is still in the works, I am very cautions. This proposal still needs to be voted on and signed by the Governor. In an otherwise bleak budget year, I am hopeful that the Governor and the Legislature will do the right thing and open our Redding Veterans home once and for all.”
Meanwhile, California State Senator Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) said approving the $10.6 million to open the veterans homes in Redding and Fresno moves the funding toward inclusion in the budget bills to be considered on the floor of each house later this week and then sent to the Governor.
“This is a real step forward in ensuring that California lives up to its commitment to veterans, but our work isn’t done yet,” LaMalfa asked.
“The government has already spent over $200 million to build these homes, yet they’ve sat empty even as increasing number of veterans return to California. We need to send Governor Brown a strong message that California’s veterans can’t be ignored any longer,” La Malfa said.
La Malfa worked with Nielsen and Assemblymember Linda Halderman (R-Fresno) to develop a proposal that will ramp up operations at the homes in the coming year. Governor Jerry Brown’s budget proposal failed to include any funding to operate the homes, which would delay their opening until at least 2014.
“Veterans home funding is not a sure thing at this point, but recent actions are a positive step toward finally opening these facilities,” LaMalfa added.
Both legislators are urging veterans and their supporters to write the Governor and emphasize the importance of keeping this funding in the state budget.