When Riverside County Fourth District Supervisor V. Manuel Perez learned that funding for Veteran Service Officers in the state of California was set at $6 million by the Governor and state Legislature, he felt the program was badly underfunded.
Perez and his colleagues at the Board of Supervisors voted to ask the state to increase the authorized appropriations to full funding of $11 million. Perez reasoned that the state’s budget outlook and revenues had increased and it was a good time to ask for a full appropriation.
After all, he said, “Our veterans deserved better.”
The county team went in search of an author for a bill that would increase funding for the County Veteran Service Officers here in Riverside County and the other 57 counties across the state. Enter State Sen. Josh Newman, himself a veteran, who would introduce Senate Bill 1043. One major problem, Newman couldn’t secure enough votes from Democrats or Republicans to increase the spending to the full funding of 11 million. So he did what he could and asked for a slight increase. The bill advanced.
Newman, in the midst of this process, is recalled from office and his bill died a slow and painful death. Not one member of the state Senate took up the bill. That’s pretty sad. We have veterans waiting in lines to receive help from Veteran Service Officers across 58 counties and not one state Senator stepped up. California is home to 1.8 million veterans. They served their nation in time of war and peace, yet our state Legislature will only spend $3.33 per veteran, per year to help veterans with badly needed services. Let me repeat that: Just $ 3.33 per year to help those who served.
Those same legislators seek out veterans for endorsements for their campaigns, pose for pictures with our wounded warriors, and tell us just how hard they are fighting for veterans in Sacramento. While legislators and the Governor couldn’t find money for veterans in the state’s budget, they found $630 million to build 120 legislators and staff a new set of offices in Sacramento. Something called the Ocean Protection Council got $20 million to protect the ocean, our state’s Strategic Growth Council received $40 million for an outfit called Transformative Climate Communities, and Green House Gas funding hit $1.4 billion.
Did I mention that veterans are valued at $3.33 per day? Oh, the Marine (not the USMC kind of Marine) Mammal Rescue people got $2.1 million to rescue marine mammals.
Each of the above causes, programs, and expenditures is probably needed and going to fund great programs. But just $ 3.33 per year, per a veteran living in our state? Really! Oh, I know our legislators will say that isn’t all the state spends on veterans but Californians’ first line of support for our veterans are the veterans who serve as Veteran Service Officers.
Veterans were willing to do something 99 percent of Americans won’t do — raise their hand, take an oath, and put their lives on the line in our Armed Forces. I think the Great State of California can step up the amount it spends on helping our veterans get the support they have earned by virtue of their service. After all, a government budget reflects the priorities of those who we elect to serve.
Next time a state legislator asks a veteran for an endorsement or a donation ask them to put our tax money where their mouth is and support a funding increase for our Veteran Service Officers.
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