Long story short: the Minnesota Veterans Home in Minneapolis used to be a pit. Among the Home’s campus were old buildings that had not been well maintained along with others that even had they been properly maintained were obsolete anyway. And, a dangerous one. In addition to the deferred maintenance there were problems with care to the point that patients had died. So a plan was put in place, and the turn around began. From an October 14, 2010 Strib story:

Outside, earth movers were starting work on a new nursing home that in two years will replace a Depression-era building condemned after steel supports began rusting away.

Last Friday a group of veterans representing nine major veterans groups called The Commanders Task Force held a press conference at the State Capitol concerning this. From their press release:

“The state veterans community is alarmed that funding for the project is in limbo at this time in both the House and Senate.”

The plan called for three phases. The first, referenced in that Strib story, was fully funded and completed. Phase II, the demolition of the north half of a building that veterans groups contend is far short of minimal standards for a quality nursing home, is funded. But, Phase II is on hold, because Phase III is the demolition of the south half of the same building. Quite simply, Phase II can’t move forward as planned if Phase III isn’t funded and scheduled.

Last Saturday, at the Minnesota 7th District VFW (“Veterans of Foreign Wars”) Convention, the Legislative Committee gave their report: DFL Leadership in neither the House nor the Senate seem to consider finishing this project a priority; in fact, House Leadership announced appointment of the Speaker’s Select Committee On Veterans Housing minutes before the Commanders Task Force’s press conference on Friday. This Committee, appointed by Speaker of the House Paul Thissen (DFL-61B) , was charged with “examin(ing) housing issues facing Minnesota veterans, including veterans with long-term care needs and homeless veterans. The committee will issue a report with their recommendations by February 1, 2014.”

To put it quite mildly, the Legislative Update report was not warmly received by the veterans in attendance. For many, far from it.

The House and the Senate’s priorities differ with Governor Dayton’s as Governor Dayton has called for fully funding Phase III. This puts the Governor’s Office squarely at odds with the Legislature on an issue that American Legion Commander Don Pankake called the number one legislative priority for the nine veterans organizations holding last Friday’s press conference. Governor Dayton’s proposed Capital Bonding bill includes funding for Phase 3 for the Minneapolis veterans Home. “Governor Dayton has committed to funding the next phase of the Minneapolis Veterans Home in his last two bonding proposals,” said Dayton spokesperson Katharine Tinucci in an email statement today. “For the benefit of our veterans, who have given so much, the Governor will continue advocating for that position throughout this legislative session.”

The State House of Representatives bonding proposal does not. A request for comment to the DFL House Caucus regarding Speaker Thissen’s thoughts about including Phase III funding this session was not returned at time of publication. With the Legislature Constitutionally required to finish its work by Monday, May 20th, Veterans groups will be watching closely to see if Legislators follow Governor Dayton’s lead by including funding for a project underway.

(cross posted from Twin Cities Daily Planet)

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