Harrisburg – Legislation establishing a state trust fund to enhance programs, services and benefits for Pennsylvania’s one million veterans was today approved by the state Senate.
Sponsored by Senator Lisa Baker (R-20), Senate Bill 1531 would create the Pennsylvania Veterans Trust Fund (PVTF) to supplement state appropriations for veterans programs and support new partnerships with charities and veterans’ service organizations.
Baker, who chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, said the fund will build upon the services and programs that our state already offers.
“This trust is not intended to support programs that are funded by existing revenues – such as our veterans’ homes. Instead, it will allow us to do more to help the extensive outreach efforts that the veterans’ groups and the department have underway.”
The bill also creates a voluntary check-off mechanism on driver’s license renewals and vehicle registrations for motorists to donate to the fund and provides for special veterans’ license plates for both veterans and motorists who wish to honor veterans.
With the establishment of the fund, Pennsylvania would join only a handful of other states working to forge relationships between government and the many organizations working to help veterans. Monies could be used for a variety of different programs including grants for the Pennsylvania Veterans Foundation and other veterans’ organizations, support for innovative and expanded county veterans’ programs, and housing assistance for veterans.
“Pennsylvanians are justifiably proud of how many of our citizens serve, and of their incredible devotion to duty,” Baker said. “We need to be equally proud that we properly honor our commitments to these brave men and women.”
Pennsylvanians have played a prominent part in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, continuing the long tradition of Commonwealth residents serving in our armed forces and defending freedom.
This comes with a challenge for legislators and state officials. The number of veterans is increasing. The cost of programs and services is rising. The budget implications are inescapable.
Tough economic times neither diminish nor defer our obligations to veterans. They did their duty; now we must do ours.
Over the course of this legislative session, our committee has held several hearings into solutions for connecting veterans with the benefits and services they have earned. With fiscal challenges at both the state and national levels, all agree the traditional methods for funding services are severely stretched.
Part of the answer is the Veterans Trust Fund plan before us.
This is a way to generate additional funding, drawing in dollars from private sources and combining them with new public means. The door is opened to charitable contributions, to partnership efforts between non-profits and veterans’ groups, and to motorists to utilize a check-off on license and registration renewals or to acquire a specialty license plate.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the Scotland School property will help build the fund.
Nothing in here is intended to substitute for or relieve state funding for ongoing obligations and responsibilities, such as our veterans homes. The fund is designed to allow us to do more, not merely maintain effort. It will help the extensive outreach efforts that the veterans’ groups and the department have underway.
Pennsylvanians are justifiably proud of how many of our citizens serve, and of their incredible devotion to duty. We need to be equally proud that we properly.
Contact: Jennifer Wilson