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Veterans homes clear panel; measure includes no funding, calls for study on need

ST. PAUL — A pair of new Minnesota veterans’ homes received preliminary approval Tuesday on a House committee, but without funding and only after a study is prepared about where future homes are needed.

Some lawmakers ripped a proposal to place a veterans’ nursing home in the Bemidji area.

Republican Reps. Mary Liz Holberg of Lakeville and Sarah Anderson of Plymouth said they feared that opening more veterans’ homes could hurt private nursing homes. However, Michael Gallucci of the state Veterans Affairs Department said most nursing homes have difficulty getting federal money for veterans.

Some lawmakers also complained that there is no proof that the Bemidji area is where a veterans’ home is most needed.

“I have all kinds of counties that support this,” Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, said, but added that he was not ready to defend the location Tuesday.

“The northwest region is in dire need for that,” Gallucci added, but admitted “there never has really been a blueprint where we should build homes.”

Chairman Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal, of the House Ways and Means Committee convinced his colleagues to approve a study about where new homes should be opened.

Rep. John Ward, DFL-Baxter, said a 2009 study showed the needs were, in order, Little Falls, Brainerd and Crosby. He promoted a vets’ home in Brainerd.

The Ways and Means Committee approved the Bemidji and Brainerd homes, with a Montevideo home already in the works. However, before any new home is built it must get funding from legislative public works committees.

There also has been talk of a veterans’ home in Willmar, but no formal presentation has been made.

Galluci said that completing improvements on a Minneapolis veterans’ home is his department’s top priority.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.