Cuts to veterans is irresponsible

Published 9:47 am Wednesday, May 18, 2011

It is with pride and humility that I serve as DFL lead on the House Veterans Services Division. My priority is to balance the budget responsibly, while holding harmless the brave men and women who have served and continue serving our country.

As such, I have serious misgivings about the potential consequences for the Department of Military Affairs and Department of Veterans Services that result from uncalculated and irresponsible across-the-board cuts in the GOP state government budget bill, as indicated by the commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget and the commissioner of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

As these potential cuts could have devastating affects for our veterans, I find it unfortunate that the GOP will not take responsibility for the consequences of these cuts, while at the same time refusing to take necessary steps in deliberately protecting the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs and Military Affairs. These cuts would result in closure of a veterans’ home, increased burial fees at the state veterans cemetery, staff reductions, and compromise essential federal funds to the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs.

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In fact, the GOP has characterized Commissioner Jim Schowalter and Maj. Gen. Larry Shellito’s outlining of the above cuts as “worst case” scenarios and “overreactions.” Our service men and women protect us when we as a nation are faced with situations that threaten our livelihood and appear insurmountable; our nation’s worst case scenarios. Shouldn’t we, as lawmakers, do the same in return — protect veterans when faced with the possibility of a worst-case scenario for the services that support them and their families? More importantly, we expect our service members to be responsible for our lives. The least we should expect from the GOP is to be responsible for the consequences of their cuts.

Additionally, I would urge legislative leaders involved in the budget negotiation process to be precise and deliberate with the words they use when discussing this highly-impassioned issue. Resorting to accusatory remarks and impugning the motives of commissioners and military leaders who have served this country and this state under both GOP and DFL leaders, is disrespectful and unproductive.

Simply put: we must do better by our veterans and by those serving our country. Both in our actions and in our words.

Lyle Koenen

state representative

District 20B

Clara City