Jun 1, 2009

All GOP county board balks at $7.50 a year to support the troops

It seems like a no-brainer: who wouldn’t mind spend $7.50 a year to help military veterans and their families out of a financial hardship? The answer is, apparently, the all-Republican Livingston County Board of Commissioners.

The Livingston County Veterans Committee, consisting of five members appointed by the Board of Commissioners to oversee operations of the Veterans Affairs Department, wants the board to authorize a levy, required by law anyway, to fund the depleted Veterans Relief fund. Public Act 214 provides that a county shall levy one-tenth of a mill to fund Veterans Relief.

Livingston County has not been levying the required millage like the surrounding counties of Shiawassee, Washtenaw, Oakland, and Ingham do. The veterans committee took their request to the board’s Human Resources Committee last week, and the committee said they want to study it further. The committee was asking for half of the levy they can ask for.

The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus has an editorial advocating for the levy. According to the paper, “the one-twentieth of a mill would cost the owner of a home with a market value of $300,000 about $7.50 a year. It's peanuts to the taxpayer, but it would raise $400,000 a year for the veteran’s office.”

The last time I checked, the average market value of a home in Livingston County is just over $200,000. This is a small sacrifice to make for those who defend the country.

I’m a little tired of right-wingers calling people who didn’t support the Iraq fiasco traitors, and co-opting the slogan “Support the Troops.” For most right-wingers, it’s just a campaign slogan, and they refuse to put their money where their mouth is.

The concluding line of the editorial is great, saying “The ball is in the commissioners' court. They need to step up to ensure that veterans' needs are met. Otherwise, the Memorial Day ceremonies are, to them, more sham than substance.”

However, they also say “the all-Republican board likes to boast of its low tax rate. It need not compromise that stand. If it imposes a tax levy for the veterans, it need only reduce its county tax by the same amount. That way, the veterans are served and the county's tax rate is unchanged.”

I don’t think that is incorrect.

The statute says the “…purpose of creating a fund for the relief of honorably discharged indigent members of the army, navy, air force, marine corps, coast guard, and women's auxiliaries of all wars or military expeditions in which the United States of America has been, is, or may hereafter be, a participant.”

It also says, “Funds raised in accordance with the provisions of this section may be expended for the relief of indigent wives and children of active duty soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, coast guardsmen, nurses, and members of the women's auxiliaries during the continuance of present hostilities and prior to their discharge.”

What that is saying to me - and I am not a lawyer - is that the millage should be used to establish a fund to provide money to help indigent vets and their families. Funding of the Livingston County Veterans Affairs Office is separate from the fund.

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