Families of soldiers killed or wounded in the line of duty may soon have a source of funds to help meet some expenses.
Without dissent, the House Committee on Counties, Municipalities and Military Affairs approved legislation Tuesday to create a special state fund for expenses not covered by the military. The lawmakers also agreed to provide $100,000 in start-up cash.
But the real financing would come directly from Arizona taxpayers who would be able to get a dollar-for-dollar income tax credit for donations to the fund. Individuals could divert up to $200 of what they owe the state; the limit would be $400 for couples.
Sen. Marsha Arzberger, DWillcox, said the real need is for families of soldiers who are injured and being treated far from home.
Arzberger said the military provides “very limited” travel and living expenses — but only for spouses.
She said Lt. Col. Jeff Jennings of Fort Huachuca told her about one soldier who suffered a head injury in Iraq and is still in a coma. Arzberger said the soldier was not married and the Army gave only a “small stipend” — she believes about $100 — for the mother to travel to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and put her up for only 10 days.
And Arzberger said the doctor in that case believed that the man might wake from his coma if he heard the voices of his children. But the military does not pay such travel expenses.
SB1044 would set up a special committee which would establish criteria for who could apply for help and review applications, with assistance based on financial need.
Tom Finnegan, president of the Huachuca 50 community group in Sierra Vista, brought a letter from Gen. Barbara Fast, commander of the military base there.
While noting that Fast cannot comment on pending legislation, he said Fast wrote that similar proposals in other states have been a “blessing” to families there.
Arzberger’s legislation, which still requires full House and Senate approval, limits the total tax credits available in any one year to the first $1 million of donations.