Veterans' home on VA grounds is solid project

The state Legislature should approve the $10 million state contribution for the $35 million project.

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When Walla Walla's Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial Veterans Affairs Medical Center was saved from closure a few years back, the federal government promised to upgrade the facility. Progress is being made with construction starting on a new clinic.

And this week another important step was taken when the state Department of Veterans Affairs requested $10 million from the Legislature to build a veterans' nursing home on the VA campus. The funding will be used in conjunction with federal funds to build a $35 million facility that will provide 105 permanent jobs.

Given the current lousy economy, no project is a slam dunk for approval.

However, this request would appear to be well-positioned.

Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt is strongly behind it. Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, has the political juice required to push through a request. But Hewitt also has credibility. He has, to his credit, been careful in what projects and programs he supports even when the funding is aimed at his legislative district, either Walla Walla or Tri-Cities. Hewitt has said state money should be spent only on things that are needed and can be justified.

A veterans' home is needed in this corner of the state. Washington has such homes in Spokane, Kitsap County and Pierce County.

And having the facility in the shadow of a VA medical center makes a great deal of sense.

Beyond that, the state has already invested $2.5 million in the project for design engineering. It would be foolish for lawmakers to squander that investment by not moving forward with the project.

The funding would come from the capital budget, which is used solely for building projects. The state has a clear line between capital funding and the day-to-day operations of government to ensure necessary steps can be taken to keep the infrastructure sound even during tough economic times.

Even so, lawmakers - as they should - are cautious about approving anything new.

But this project is a winner. It makes good on an old promise and provides a service that is needed - long-term care for veterans.

It's an added bonus the facility will be in this community.

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