Thousands of people filled the streets of downtown St. Louis Saturday for a parade to welcome home Iraq war veterans. It was an inspiring display of patriotism.
The overwhelming support for this grassroots effort to recognize our veterans says something about the values of people in the St. Louis region. It mirrors the respect and gratitude Americans across the country feel for veterans. We hold veterans in the highest regard because they embody the ideals upon which America was founded.
But here in the “Show Me” state, we do more than nod in agreement to this rising tide of support for our veterans. We turn out in force to tell our veterans thank you in person.
That kind of grassroots support is evident in other efforts that are emerging in this area. A group of Union area residents have launched Honoring Missouri’s Disabled Military Heroes, a community-based outreach program to assist disabled veterans. Another initiative, Show-Me Heroes, is working to assist veterans in finding meaningful and gainful employment with local companies.
There is another effort to benefit veterans that is currently playing out in our state Legislature that also deserves our support. Unless the state finds a new revenue source, the Missouri Veterans Home system could be out of money in 2013.
The state operates seven homes for veterans across the state — with a total of 1,350 beds — with another 1,691 vets on a waiting list. Because of budget shortfalls over the past few years, lawmakers have had to tap into some of the funding streams that support the veterans homes. As a result, there is a real risk that the state may have to close some or all of the homes.
To address the problem Gov. Nixon has proposed raising the cover charge to casinos by $1 per patron. It would raise the entrance fee from $2 to $3 and could generate $50 million a year for the Veterans Commission which runs the homes.
Lawmakers have filed bills in both the House and Senate to raise the cover charge which would provide a dedicated funding stream to operate the homes. But the gaming industry is pushing back arguing it could lose millions if patrons are forced to pay more to gamble.
We doubt that assertion. According to the Missouri Gaming Commission’s annual report, Missouri’s effective tax rate for casinos — about 27 percent — is competitive with nearby states. Missouri casinos pulled in $1.8 billion last year. Enough said.
Want to do something else to show your support for veterans? Call your legislators and tell them to support this effort.