Voters to decide on bonuses for vets

By Marc Kovac

COLUMBUS — Ohio voters will decide whether veterans of ongoing and recent conflicts in the Middle East should receive bonus payments from the state, after action in the Ohio House on Tuesday.

The chamber, on a vote of 92-3, signed off on a joint resolution, which would require up to $200 million in state borrowing to cover the one-time payments.

The resolution will place a constitutional amendment before voters in November. With their approval, the state would borrow the funds, through the sale of bonds, to provide one-time payments of $500 to $1,000 for those who served during conflicts in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq. Families who lost loved ones would receive payments of $5,000.

Payments would be made to those who have served in recent years, as well as those enlisted during Desert Storm in the early 1990s. Similar cash bonuses have been paid to veterans of other wars and conflicts, dating back to World War I.

The Senate adopted a comparable resolution during its last session, but the House quashed the idea of issuing bonds to pay its costs. Instead, representatives passed a bill calling for the state to use its rainy-day savings to pay for the bonuses — a move that was eventually vetoed by Gov. Ted Strickland.

Republicans who opposed the resolution Tuesday continued to voice concern about borrowing money to pay the bonuses.

“I think we dishonor them by doing what we’re proposing here today,” said Rep. Gerald Stebelton, a Republican from Lancaster.

“What we will be doing is asking for them to help pay their own bonuses. ... This is not the time to be borrowing money to do this. We should have done this three months ago with the money we had in the rainy-day fund.”

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