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Sunday, April 21, 2024
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Evers announces budget initiatives to assist Wisconsin veterans

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers pledged to invest millions into Wisconsin’s veterans less than a week before he unveils the full 2023-25 biennial budget.

Gov. Tony Evers revealed substantial spending increases aimed to benefit Wisconsin’s veterans Thursday, just days before publicly announcing his full 2023-25 biennial budget. 

Evers’ plan would funnel millions of state dollars into government-sponsored programs over the next three years to provide veterans with more “resources they earn and deserve,” according to the governor’s office.

The increased efforts would build upon pre-existing programs such as the Blue Ribbon Commission on Veteran Opportunity, a program Evers signed into effect after its introduction at last year’s State of the State address. The commission’s research led to a $10 million investment in veteran programs across Wisconsin and supported over 300,000 veterans and families statewide in 2022, according to the governor’s office. 

“We’re continuing that good work in the upcoming biennial budget by proposing continued investment in various innovative initiatives to ensure the state is equipped to meet the needs of our veteran community and help them build strong, lasting success,” Evers said in a press release Thursday.

In the new budget draft, Evers prioritizes “continued investment” in programs for veterans, promising to expand funding for veteran rehabilitation facilities and provide $6.7 million in additional funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA). 

Initiatives in the governor’s proposal also allocate funding for veterans’ mental health services and suicide prevention, including a $250,000 grant program for Wisconsin dog trainers looking to assist veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Wisconsin veterans commit suicide at rates nearly 50% higher than the state average, according to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs data from 2019.

Wisconsin DVA Communications Director Colleen Flaherty told The Daily Cardinal that Evers’ plan would provide a “significant” $1.5 million funding boost to the state’s Veterans Outreach and Recovery Program (VORP). She said the program, which assists veterans with recovery, health and housing concerns, is a crucial part of the DVA’s mission to identify and target issues limiting Wisconsin veterans’ abilities to thrive in daily life. 

Evers’ proposal would also alleviate tax burdens for veterans and their families by extending eligibility for the Department of Revenue’s Veterans and Surviving Spouses Property Tax Credit, which currently provides aid to homeowners but not renters. The extensions would provide $10 million in relief for newly-eligible renters — an additional $43.2 million in tax relief as compared to the previous budget biennium.

The effects of Evers’ plan would be felt on University of Wisconsin campuses as well, with $2.8 million proposed for campuses across the state to provide veteran aid services, according to the governor’s office. That includes $500,000 per year for the UW Missing in Action Recovery and Identification Project, a program stationed at UW-Madison that researches and recovers Wisconsin veterans who went missing during service. 

Additionally, Evers’ plan would officially mark Veterans Day as a state holiday, making Wisconsin the last U.S. state to do so.

The governor will unveil his full 2023-25 biennial budget in a speech at the Capitol on Wednesday evening.

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Maggie Zale

Maggie Zale is a senior staff writer at The Daily Cardinal.

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