Voters could be asked to shore up veterans fund |

Voters could be asked to shore up veterans fund

DENVER – After running into problems finding more funding for veterans at the state Capitol, two state lawmakers are considering going to the voters with a funding plan.Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, and Sen. Josh Penry, R-Fruita, are working on a proposal that would put $40 million in the state veterans trust fund. Neither would discuss where that money is going to come from.”The majority of us talk as if there’s nothing more important than our troops but when it comes to spending money on them everyone runs for cover,” Romer said.He said they are considering asking lawmakers to refer a constitutional proposal to voters to shore up the fund. That would require a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate. If that fails, he said veterans groups could collect signatures to place the issue on the ballot.Penry said it would be better to have more money set aside to help veterans rather than having them compete with other programs in the state budget.Legislators have been having trouble finding money for some proposals aimed at helping National Guard members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan this year without cutting other programs or violating the state’s spending restrictions.On Thursday, lawmakers scaled down a proposal to offer in-state tuition to Guard members and their family. Under the bill, they would now be able to pay the lower in-state rate but wouldn’t get the $2,670 that the state gives to all other in-state students.Romer said lawmakers will also likely reject his proposal to spend $90,000 to cover the life insurance premiums for Guard members in their first year back home. Instead, the state will promise to cover their premiums while deployed if the federal government ever reverses its recent decision to pay for that coverage.State lawmakers took $2.8 million from the veterans trust fund during the recession to help balance the budget. Romer said he thinks the state should shore up the fund to help provide a “safety net” for the veterans of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families.

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