Members of the House Appropriations Committee on Public Safety and Corrections are looking for ways to get more money to the state’s veterans homes.
Chairman Chris Kelly (D-Columbia) says over the years, some of the funds that used to go to those homes has been funneled in other directions. “Early the veterans homes didn’t need all the money that was going there so some of it went to early childhood and some of it went to some other programs. Now the problem is our veterans homes are in pretty serious shape both in terms of the need for repair and maintenance and for the ongoing cost of the operations.”
Another Committee member, Representative Galen Higdon (R-St. Joseph) says veterans are waiting in line to get into those facilities. “There’s at least over 1800 now in the state and of course it’s compounding as veterans come back.”
Kelly has filed what he’s called the “loose change” bill, that would allow casino patrons to donate a portion of their winnings to the state Veterans Commission. “There’s always some change when you’re ready to check out. You have like $45 and 27 cents or 85 cents or some cents. We’d like the law to say that the customer gets asked, ‘Would you like to donate the portion less than a dollar … to the Missouri Veterans Commission.” Kelly estimates those donations could amount to between $6 and $8 million dollars a year.
Higdon is preparing a bill that includes that idea and another. It would take the money that is found on casino floors and direct it to the Veterans Commission as well. Currently, that money goes into General Revenue.
Higdon says if that money were dropped on the street, a person can report it to law enforcement after 30 days. In a casino, it goes to the state’s General Revenue fund. “I argue that shouldn’t be part of our general revenue anyway. That’s something that belongs to the casinos … it’s on their property.” Higdon says the casinos he’s talked to are alright with the money going to the veterans’ cause, telling him, “We won’t argue that point.”
Another bill filed by Representative Sheila Solon (R-Blue Springs) would double the annual transfer from the Gaming Commission Fund to the Veterans Commission Capital Improvement Trust Fund from $3 million to $6 million and allow for more to be transferred when the remaining gaming fund amount is more than $28 million.
The Committee is scheduled to next meet Wednesday afternoon.