SALEM, Ore. - State Rep. Julie Parrish (R –West Linn/Tualatin) submitted petitions with over 1,000 signatures to the Oregon Secretary of State's office Friday to qualify the Oregon Veterans Lottery Bill initiative, which will provide dedicated funding to veterans' programs and services if passed in November 2014.
The initiative, chief co-sponsored by Rep. Parrish and Clackamas County Commissioner Martha Schrader, would dedicate 5 percent of the net proceeds from the Oregon Lottery towards supporting the needs of veterans.
Annually, the lottery generates roughly 1.1 billion. It is estimated that 5 percent of the net proceeds would generate $26 million per year for programs that address such issues as housing for homeless veterans, mental health and suicide prevention, and employment and re-integration into civilian life.
Parrish also was the chief sponsor of House Joint Resolution 29, which was co-sponsored by 59 other legislators from both parties. HJR 29 was amended to one percent by the House Veterans Affairs Committee and referred to the Ways and Means Committee, with no subsequent action taken yet by that committee.
"If my colleagues were serious about passing this bill, we would have already taken a vote on the House floor. I appreciate the effort of House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Greg Matthews for helping me get the bill as far as it went," Parrish said. "However, I'm glad we had the forethought to submit this as both a bill and a ballot initiative, because it is clear that we will need to gather the signatures if we want to get a meaningful proposal on the ballot for voters to decide."
Oregon has an estimated 375,000 veterans. In 2014, the Oregon National Guard is in the queue for another significant deployment of soldiers to Afghanistan.
"After the 2009-10 deployment to Iraq, roughly 50 percent of the soldiers who served in that deployment came home to no jobs," Rep. Parrish said. "Three years later, 20 percent of that cohort is still unemployed. This time when soldiers come home, those veterans will have the support they need to re-adjust back into civilian life and ensure their health care and mental health needs are met."
If voters approve the Oregon Veterans Lottery Bill, the five percent set aside for our veterans will not impact any other dedicated allocations. The percentage dedicated to veterans will only affect the discretionary portion of the lottery proceeds. Further, this initiative wouldn't go into effect until the 2015-17 biennium.
"Oregonians have done an amazing job taking care of veterans and their families during this 12-year-long war," Parrish said. "But the effort needs to be more than relying on time and donations from non-profit groups. I believe if given the choice, Oregonians will vote for veterans."