Letter: Hamilton disappointed in House DemocratsOn a party-line vote, the Minnesota House of Representatives has approved a finance proposal that reduces funding for agriculture, veterans, and military needs across the state. All House Republicans opposed the measure because it does not fairly fund veterans, military affairs and farm programs.
By: Dist. 22B Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, Worthington Daily Globe
On a party-line vote, the Minnesota House of Representatives has approved a finance proposal that reduces funding for agriculture, veterans, and military needs across the state. All House Republicans opposed the measure because it does not fairly fund veterans, military affairs and farm programs.
As Vice-Chair of the committee that approved the bill, I am outraged by the priorities set by House Democrats in this budget-setting process.
The House majority gave this committee a funding target that was ridiculously low, and our veterans and our farmers will suffer because of it. Instead of refusing to take a stand against funding dog parks and practice hockey arenas, the majority forced farm programs to be gutted in order to increase funding for our veterans.
Special needs requests from suffering veterans across the state are increasing at an alarming rate. So far in 2009, the Department of Veterans Affairs has already spent 15 percent more on medical requests than at this point in 2008. Special needs applications for veterans have also increased by 25 percent, which is why additional funding is needed in this area.
During committee hearings, representatives from the American Legion, VFW, and other service organizations say they were willing to forgo any increases for their specific operations in order to improve funding for veterans and soldiers in need, and farmers have now volunteered to do the same. But if the House majority had a stronger set of priorities, our ag community wouldn’t have needed to make the funding sacrifice.
Let’s hand it to our farmers as they recognize where our true priorities lie, and that’s with our fallen soldiers who need our help.
But how sad is it that the House majority forces our state’s agriculture interests, which make up less than one percent of Minnesota’s $33 billion budget, to take the hit because the majority refuses to properly fund those who risked their lives to fight for our country.
We need to prioritize during this budget reduction process, and there should be no doubt that veterans and military programs should be at the top of the state’s priority list. But instead of looking in areas like state government or at other pet projects to find more revenue for veterans, the majority went after agriculture, and for that I am truly disappointed.
A House/Senate conference committee will now meet to create a compromise bonding plan that can be approved by both bodies. Once that occurs, it will be sent to Governor Pawlenty for his signature.