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Eric Litke
By Eric Litke January 21, 2021

Evers gathers veterans’ input, but not as promised

The state's Veterans Trust Fund has faced a structural deficit for years, requiring an infusion of $29.6 million from the state in the 2019-21 budget to stay in the black.

Those financial struggles also prompted Gov. Tony Evers to promise during his campaign that he would convene a blue-ribbon commission to address the solvency issues. Keeping this promise would mean convening a committee, holding regular meetings and ultimately taking action or making a report.

The fund finances the majority of the programs for the state's Veterans Affairs Department, but the loan program that once funded it was shut down in 2011. Despite the name, it is now essentially a pass-through account reliant on cash infusions, rather than a trust fund with investments.

Evers has since addressed this issue, but not in the way he promised.

The governor directed staff in the state Department of Veterans Affairs to solicit input from the public on the fund, and they heard from 200 stakeholders over the course of three sessions in December 2020.

In a two-page letter to Evers on Jan. 12, 2021, Veterans Affairs Secretary Mary Kolar summarized the resulting recommendations as 1) Continuing to provide services to veterans, and 2) Continuing to use the state general fund to refill the trust fund account.

That's well short of the standard Evers himself set with his creation of a promised blue-ribbon commission on rural issues. There, a committee of 12 stakeholders from around the state was created by executive order, met, gathered input and generated a 49-page report with 10 detailed recommendations. We rated that as a Promise Kept.

The only thing that effort has in common with the veterans funding effort is the gathering of input. The core of this promise was to create a commission, and that didn't happen..

We rate this Promise Broken.

Our Sources

Eric Litke
By Eric Litke October 15, 2019

Veterans fund not addressed so far

Gov. Tony Evers' push for the state's highest office included a promise to create a commission to study solvency issues for the Veterans Trust Fund.

The fund finances the majority of the programs for the state's Veterans Affairs department, but has faced significant structural deficits in recent years. It was originally funded through a loan program for veterans, but that shut down in 2011.

The 2019-21 budget keeps the trust fund in the black by transferring $29.6 million from the state's general fund over the two year-period.

Keeping this promise would mean convening the committee, holding regular meetings and ultimately taking action or making a report.

So far, Evers has not taken any action on the commission, which could be created by executive order. In other words, it does not need the support of the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said to look for progress on this in the coming months.

We rate this promise Stalled.

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