Minnesota legislators draft plan for more veterans homes using stadium reserve funds

- There’s a plan at the Capitol to finally come up with the money to build three new veterans homes.
Republican lawmakers like the plan, but Governor Mark Dayton does not. The governor isn’t supportive because the money would come from the reserve funds to upkeep the new U.S. Bank Stadium.

Republican House leaders say that fund is expected to grow up to $120 million next year, and they’re saying, "Why not use it for something else?"

It took years of planning to build U.S. Bank Stadium, and veterans are finding it’s taking just as long to build three new nursing homes. The plans for a new veterans home in Preston, another in Montevideo and a third in Bemidji are stalled, waiting for funding. Meanwhile, veterans are telling lawmakers they can’t wait anymore.

“My mind goes back to all of those that have died already since we’ve been working on this and never had an advantage for it,” said Marv Garvey with the Montevideo VFW.

Representative Sarah Anderson said there’s $58 million in the fund. Her plan is to withdraw $26 million to pay for the state’s share of the veterans homes and another $4 million to fund the governor’s sexual harassment office.

“I can’t think of a better use of the people’s stadium money than to go toward the people’s veterans homes,” Rep. Anderson said.  

But Governor Dayton calls it a raid on the stadium fund.

“If they want to fund these [veterans homes] - and it’s about $10 million a year to operate one of these, so we’re talking about $30 million a year expenditure for operations - then they need to come up with the money, otherwise it’s just a political gimmick,” Gov. Dayton said.      

Gimmick or not, it’s already part of the state government funding bill with veterans urging its passage.

“It’s just huge. We need it and we need it now," said one veteran at the press conference.

The plan also has the backing of three very powerful chairs in the House, which greatly increases its chances of surviving in the final House supplemental budget.

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