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House Approves National Guard Tuition Assistance

The Iowa House approved a bipartisan bill today to prevent a tuition hike on National Guard members who are back in college this year. Last week, House Democrats pushed Republicans to approve the bill quickly and end the uncertainty for National Guard students.  The bill was approved by the Senate last week and now goes to the Governor.

Here’s the latest from Radio Iowa’s Kay Henderson:

$1.3 million set aside for Guard tuition grants (audio)

January 26, 2012 By O. Kay Henderson

The Iowa House has given final legislative approval to an emergency allotment of $1.3 million that will cover tuition costs for Iowa National Guard soldiers who’ve enrolled in college courses.

Representative Chris Hall, a Democrat from Sioux City, has heard from a number of soldiers in his district who saw their individual benefits cut by $1300 for this semester.

“During the first week of the legislature, I know that I received emails from several of our Guardsmen from the 185th Air Refueling Wing,” Hall says.

Representative Jerry Kearns, a Democrat from Keokuk, says this fulfills a promise made to those soldiers.

“I would have been happy to act on this last week and (get) it out of the way, but I’m very pleased we’re here today acting on it,” Kearns says.

The Iowa Senate approved the bill last week, but Republicans delayed action in the Iowa House to ensure that the Guard indeed needed that much money to fulfill its tuition grant promises. Representative Royd Chambers, a Republican from Sheldon who is a member of the Iowa Air National Guard, says Republicans were just doing their “due dilligence” in checking the numbers.

“We are, of course, all in support of supporting our National Guard members,” Chambers says. “But we also must remember that we are responsible for spending our tax dollars wisely and efficiently.”

Representative John Wittneben, a Democrat from Estherville, says legislators set aside money for the program last year, but that was before about 3000 Iowa National Guard soldiers came back to Iowa after active duty in Afghanistan.

“It’s awful hard to appropriate these dollars when you don’t know how many are going to be returning and taking advantage of this education (grant),” Wittneben says.

The Guard announced in December that Education Assistance grants to its soldiers would be cut because there wasn’t enough money set aside to cover the tuition grants for the 1400 Iowa National Guard soldiers who’re enrolled in college. Governor Branstad has indicated he’ll sign the legislation.

In other action this morning, the Iowa House approved spending $3 million in state money to help restore the USS Iowa, a World War II era battleship that will be docked in Los Angeles as a floating museum. The Iowa Senate approved that level of spending on the project last week.

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