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29 December 2011

Denison: Look Back at 2011, Funding for Veterans Homes

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called “Opportunity” and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” –Edith L. Pierce

A Look Back at 2011

As we close the book on 2011 it strikes me that this was a year of momentous events. As a state, we’ve weathered the storm of high unemployment and a sluggish economy. State government has had to tighten its belt and live a little leaner just as Missouri families have done. And while things have looked bleak at times, we’ve also seen the early signs of economic recovery. 2011 also brought with it many natural disasters that devastated communities in all parts of the state. Still today, Missourians are rebuilding and while it’s hard to see a silver lining in these tragic events, there can be little doubt that they brought our communities closer together and renewed our spirit of perseverance and hope. Some remarkably inspirational tales emerged from the storms that ravaged Missouri – stories that remind us that in times of need, our neighbors will be there to help us. 2011 also saw the creation of new congressional districts as well as new state House and Senate districts in Missouri. While these changes may not be of interest to some, they will change the way we are represented for the next decade. 2011 was a momentous year but also one I hope was memorable for you. As we head into a new year, I wish you and yours the very best. Please have a safe and happy new year.

Funding for Veterans Homes

One goal the Missouri House will have in 2012 is to find a new source of funding for the seven veterans homes currently in operation. Right now the Missouri Veterans Commission spends approximately $80 million each year on the homes that provide beds to 1,350 veterans. With a waiting list of 1,650 veterans, the homes can’t keep up with the demand for beds. Unfortunately, even though the homes serve a vital role, they are currently faced with a funding crisis. While none of the seven homes are scheduled to close any time soon, the homes will run out of funding in July 2013 if a new funding source isn’t found. This session we will consider legislation that would create a new dedicated funding source by introducing a new scratch off lottery ticket with all proceeds from sales of the ticket going to the Missouri Veterans Commission. It’s estimated the lottery ticket could generate an additional $2 million per year for our veterans homes. While that’s not enough to solve the problem, it would be an important step toward finding sufficient funding for the homes. It’s something we will take a closer look at this session along with several other options.

In the District

On Thursday, December 22, 2011, I was very pleased to join Representative Eric Burlison in co-sponsoring and presenting a House resolution to Robert Bezanson in recognition of his retirement during a reception that was held in his honor. Mr. Bezanson has served as President and CEO of CoxHealth since August 1, 2004, during which time he has hosted CoxHealth’s centennial celebration in 2006 and has overseen $120 million in capital projects including Meyer Orthopedic Center, CoxHealth Surgery Center, and state-of-the-art Cox South Emergency and Trauma Center. Mr. Bezanson previously served in the positions of Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer from 1995 to 2004, and Administrator of Cox South and Shared Services, and Assistant Administrator from 1981 to 1995.

I look forward to hearing from you, and if you will be in Jefferson City, please stop by my office. Legislative session begins Wednesday, January 4, 2012. If you ever have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my office. Best wishes.

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