For all the missteps California Republicans have made recently (my colleague Dan Morain catalogued some of them on Sunday), even they can't miss this obvious a potential political winner.
While Californians disagree on the wisdom of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there's widespread support for the troops. So Assembly Republicans on Tuesday unveiled a baker's dozen bills to help the increasing numbers of new military veterans make the transition to the home front. The bills cover registration preferences at colleges, custody rights for vets who are single parents, recognition of health care training in the military and more.
The Republicans highlighted one measure that would earmark $26.1 million from the state's general fund to actually open and run the new veterans homes in Fresno and Redding.
As I've chronicled, the state and federal governments have invested big bucks to build them, but there's no money as yet to operate them so veterans can actually live there. The $159 million home in Fresno has 300 beds, while the $88 million home in Redding has 150 beds.
Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal calls for a further delay; the homes would not open until January 2014. Until then, the state would spend $280,000 a month for upkeep and maintenance.
In his recent visit to The Bee editorial board, Brown said he hasn't changed his mind, despite intense lobbying from legislators and veterans advocates. He said the key question remains: Where do you get the money?
The authors of the veterans home funding measure, Assembly Bill 2151, ask a different question: How high a priority do you put on veterans?
"In a budget of $90 billion, it makes no sense to cut a few million dollars on those who sacrificed so much for our country," said Assemblyman Jim Nielsen of Gerber the principal co-author of Assembly Bill 2151. "Budgets are about priorities and our veterans must be a priority."
"Veterans should always be a top legislative and budget priority," Assemblywoman Linda Halderman of Fresno added in a statement.