Other Views: Legislation helps those who served and sacrificed
Since the founding of this great nation, and even before then, brave citizens have set aside their personal endeavors for a much greater good: protecting and defending freedom. For those who served and sacrificed for our country, we are eternally grateful. We say “thank you,” but sometimes it is not enough. We can do more and, oftentimes, we do.I am always proud to support initiatives to help our returning veterans, or the families of those who did not return. At times, these efforts are small gestures but symbolic of the gratitude we offer to the men and women who donned the uniform. Some have been more significant and worth mentioning, as a continued message to say more than just “thank you.”Already this year, there has been a push to provide more for veterans and those who made the ultimate sacrifice. It starts with the recently enacted state budget, which supports veterans by stabilizing the Veterans Trust Fund, increasing staffing at veterans homes, maintaining tax exemptions for veterans and their spouses, and providing reimbursement for veterans attending college.The addition of $5 million to the Veterans Trust Fund avoids a shortfall for this biennium. For years it has faced financial difficulties. Without additional funding, it was projected to run out of money in 2013, according to the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs. The fund provides veterans with assistance in employment, housing, health care, education and transportation.The budget also creates a new provision regarding tuition remission for veterans who attend a state university or technical college. Previously, veterans who qualify for tuition remission must have entered military service while residents of the state. The budget eliminates that and extends the tuition remission benefit to veterans who have been Wisconsin residents for at least five consecutive years. A new, more inclusive tuition benefit is now in place for veterans who attend college to gain additional skills.Finally, a bill was signed into law that is perhaps one of the more important acts taken by the state. The law will forgive state income taxes for military members killed in combat. The issue came forward when the parents of a soldier killed in Afghanistan learned the state would not forgive their son's income taxes, even though the federal government already does so. With swift action, the bill was acted on and became law. Military income earned the year before a soldier is killed, along with that from the year in which he or she dies, is now exempt from state taxes.These measures, along with others signed into law or moving through the Legislature, send a message to those who served and sacrificed that their efforts are always appreciated and never forgotten. We stand with our men and women in the armed services, as they often stand in the face of great harm or grave danger. We salute them as they come home safe and sound, and forever honor them if they do not.Sen. Neal Kedzie, R-Elkhorn, serves the state's 11th Senate District. He can be reached at P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707-7882 or by calling 800-578-1457, in the district at 262-742-2025 or online at www.senatorkedzie.com.