Category Archives: Veterans

Veterans Raffle a losing ticket

Washington’s Lottery officials sent a press release Monday announcing that the 2012 Veterans Raffle did not pay off. It did for one $1 million winner, 30 who won $1,000 and 100 who won $100. The Veterans Innovation Program, which provides education, training, employment, medical care, and counseling to National Guard, Reserve and active duty veterans and their families, will see nothing from it.

In fact, Washington’s Lottery is expected to take a $340,000 hit, and according to the release it can’t take money from elsewhere and give it to the charity.

Participants paid $10 per ticket for the Veterans Innovation Program fundraiser that ran from Veteran’s Day to New Year’s Day. With just under 128,000 tickets sold, that wasn’t enough to handle payouts and costs. The lottery agency is self-funding, so no tax dollars were lost, the agency announced.

The press release follows

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Seaquist doubts viability of vets and human service bill

Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, is doubtful about the prospects of HB 1786, which he reintroduced during the state Legislature’s second special session toward the end of 2011.

The bill, if approved, would allow for “additional property tax levy flexibility in order to preserve and enhance the veterans and human services safety net.” Specifically it would allow counties like Kitsap to detach property tax collection for its Veterans Assistance Fund, used for indigent vets, from its general fund property tax collection. The net effect would be a tax increase.

Seaquist and other sponsors of the bill say the nominal tax increase would help counties provide for the needs of vets, which have been increasing, according to local veterans advocates. As the law now stands, the board could increase the collection rate (currently at 1 and 1/8 cents per $1,000 of assessed value) without a vote of the people, but the increased collection amount for the benefit of veterans would have to be subtracted from the general fund collection amount. Separating the two funds would remove the effect of any change to the veteran’s fund rate on the general fund.

The bill is unchanged from its earlier form, which never made it out of committee earlier in in 2011.

Seaquist doesn’t hold out much hope of the bill passing this time either. “To be candid,” he said, “I do not think the bill is likely to be moving in its present form at all.”

A special veterans and human services property tax levy (unrelated to HB 1786) was shot down by Kitsap County voters in November.

Seaquist, who chairs the House Higher Education Committee, says the Legislature needs to work on strategies that will have the greatest impact on the state’s economy. If, repeat, if going to voters to request a tax increase were among the strategies, Seaquist said, the proposed tax increase had better have demonstrable returns. One idea Seaquist thinks may have merit is a tax increase that would go directly toward higher education. He estimates 60,000 technology jobs in the state are going unfilled for lack of qualified workers.

“I believe if we can put the money in exactly the right place, we could make a major contribution to employment because we’re accelerating our ability to produce high tech graduates,” Seaquist said.

Anything the state asks of voters must be simple, coherent and sensible, with clear widespread benefits, Seaquist said. If more people could obtain living-wage jobs, the increased quality of life in our state would in theory raise everyone’s boat.

Before the state goes to voters, however, it must show that it has “squeezed spending” as much as possible, and that there is innovation at the local level, Seaquist said.

In the meantime, Seaquist approves of the idea for creating a veteran’s court in Kitsap County. Funded by a yet-to-be-discussed (let alone approved) increase in the county’s sales tax, the special court would, like drug court, get at the cause of criminal behavior resulting from mental health and substance abuse among veterans.

Seaquist said veterans’ advocates at the state level are looking at various solutions to veterans’ needs, including homelessness. There has been some talk of converting a wing of Western State Hospital to housing for homeless vets, still in preliminary stages.