Senate budget writers introduced legislation on Wednesday to restore the job of administrator of Veterans Services after veterans groups protested the job’s elimination two weeks ago.
“This committee created the brouhaha, and this committee has the responsibility to straighten it out,” Finance Chairman Atwell Parry, R-Melba, said.
The bill now goes to another Senate committee for a full-scale hearing. Some budget writers fear that could threaten ultimate passage because there are probably only eight or nine working days left before lawmakers adjourn.
But Parry said the joint HouseSenate budget committee could reconsider its original decision and save the job held for more than a decade by Gary Bermeosolo.
The Republican-dominated Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee eliminated Bermeosolo’s $66,000-a-year job on grounds that it amounted to excessive bureaucracy. The move quickly drew protests from veterans groups who support Bermeosolo for his advocacy of their issues. Several veterans claimed the decision was politically motivated because of Bermeosolo’s Democratic ties.
Under the bill introduced on Wednesday, Bermeosolo’s job would be restored although financing for it would be shifted from general state tax revenues to federal funds. But the bill also would move the administrator under the direct control of the governor. The job now is filled by the Idaho Veterans Affairs Commission, which the governor appoints.
“The IVAC is a nonpartisan commission and our current administrator has demonstrated time and again that he is too,” Commission Chairman D.E. Sears told budget committee members in a letter protesting the original decision. “Quite frankly, we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The legislation apparently was put together by Parry and House Appropriations Chairman Kathleen Gurnsey, R-Boise, who was leading the move to eliminate the job.
But Batt administration officials, who have stayed out of the battle between budget writers and veterans, see the proposal as a ploy by lawmakers to dump the entire issue in the lap of the new cost-cutting GOP governor.