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Veterans Commission Searches for Ideas After Lottery Defeat

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The Missouri Veterans Commission will now have to ask lawmakers for another funding solution after voters defeated a proposal for a veterans' lottery ticket.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- An Ozarks member of the Missouri Veterans Commission told KOLR10 Wednesday the Legislature will now have to come up with new ideas for funneling more money into veterans programs after Missouri voters defeated Amendment 8 at the polls Tuesday.

Amendment 8 would have created a new veterans lottery ticket with sales supporting veterans programming such as the state's veterans homes, veterans cemeteries and veterans service officers.

Charles Wooten, who is also a former Springfield city councilman and state lawmaker, said there is a long wait-list for care at homes like the one at Mount Vernon. The facilities provide nursing home care for any honorably discharged Missouri veteran. There are nearly 2,000 veterans on the waiting list at any given time.

"We are in need for a new nursing home,” Wooten said. “We'd like to build a brand new one. And right now we're looking maybe for contracts to get these people into a nursing home. And we don't really want to do that but it's a possibility."

In 1992, Missourians voted to create the Veterans Commission Capital Improvement Trust Fund. The “trust fund” gets its money from a one-dollar entry fee charged at the state’s casinos.

From 1998-2012, the Legislature voted to split the gambling money between the trust fund and early childhood education.

In 2012, lawmakers passed House Bill 1731, a measure that called for putting most of the money from the dollar entry free back into veterans programming. The veterans commission also got $20 million from the general revenue fund in the 2012 budget year and it received general revenue in prior years.

However, after the passage of HB 1731, lawmakers started pulling general revenue away from veterans.

In the 2013 and 2014 budget years, lawmakers did not appropriate any general revenue to veterans programming. In the current 2015 budget year, lawmakers and Gov. Jay Nixon agreed on $8 million in general revenue for veterans.

The veterans commission has made up for this by borrowing money from the trust fund and transferring it over to its home fund, which is the operational fund for the homes that covers food, employee salaries and other expenses.

In both the 2014 and 2015 budget years, the state pulled over $30 million from the trust fund and put it into the home fund. When the veterans commission takes money out of the trust fund, it has less available to renovate homes or save for building a new one.

Wooten said the veterans lottery ticket could have raised anywhere from $200,000 to $5 million for veterans.

"I do think they [lawmakers] will look for some way to get us some more money. It may not be the lottery ticket this time, but maybe general revenue they can pull something out of there," Wooten said. "They see the need."

Wooten said more veterans are serving in the Legislature than in the past, which could make lawmakers more sympathetic to the cause.

 



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