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..
In 2021, we rated this Promise Broken. But on Feb. 21, 2022, Evers signed an Executive Order creating the Blue Ribbon Commission on Veteran Opportunity.
The rating is now changed to Promise Kept.