Thursday, December 6, 2007

Legislators Convene At Fort Campbell

Today, the Interim Joint Committee on Seniors,Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection held a committee meeting at Fort Campbell. Members of the Committee and guest were shuttled from Hopkinsville to Fort Campbell for the day long meeting and tours.

Members were convened in the new Gen. A.C. McAuliffe building which serves as the Headquarters Command for the 101st Airborne(Air Assault) Division. Commanding General, MG Jeffrey Schloesser, addressed the legislators as to the mission and status of the 101st Airborne and Fort Campbell. Garrison Commander Col. Swope gave a detailed overview of the installation. Col. Swope presented the members with information regarding military life, schools, medical facilities and infrastructure.

Chuck Henderson who is President of the Kentucky New Era and a Civilian Aide to the Secretary of Defense along with Hopkinsville Mayor Dan Kemp appeared before the Committee to present and outline the "Left Turn" proposal. This outline provided economic and statistical data showing what the economic impact would be for Kentucky if active duty military were exempted from the state income tax. Tennessee does not have a state income tax therefore putting Kentucky at a disadvantage. The statistics showed that Kentucky while losing 17 or 18 million in tax revenue would more than make up for it in other taxes and economic stimulus that would occur from the population growth of military families in Kentucky. Growth would be stimulated in Christian, Todd and Trigg counties through new housing, sale of goods & services and income taxes that would be collected from military dependents who would seek employment in Kentucky. Kentucky would also up their percentage of military who would seek to retire in Kentucky after living here. In the 1950's Clarksville, TN was smaller than Hopkinsville but now Hopkinsville has only 31,000 residents and Clarksville-Montgomery Co. boast almost 170,00 residents.

A presentation was also given regarding the "Wings of Liberty Campaign" which is working to raise an estimated 40 million dollars. The campaign has raised 20 million to date but must raise the total amount before ground can be broke. The Museum will be located adjacent to Post but with an entrance fronting Hwy 41 for easy access. Fort Campbell is closed Post which means visitors are restricted and must seek and obtain a pass before entering.

The Committee ate lunch at a installation dining facility that provided them an opportunity to meet and talk with soldiers. A tour was provided at the Warrior Transition Unit "which offers a sustainable system wherein wounded, injured and ill soldiers are medically treated and vocationally rehabilitated to prepare them for a successful return to duty or transition to active citizenship".

A walking tour of the Donald F. Pratt Museum gave members an opportunity to see and learn about the Divisions history and accomplishments.

It was nice to see the bi-partisan support from the Committee for these issues. I am grateful to Sen. Tori and Rep. Pullin who are Co-Chairs of this Committee for allowing me the opportunity to spend the day with them. After serving two years as a Congressional staffer in charge of military affairs, it was nice to be back at Fort Campbell for a visit. I was really pleased by the efforts made by legislators from all ends of the State to attend this meeting. Senator Joey Pendleton and Representative John Tilley both have Fort Campbell as part of their districts and thanked fellow legislators for making the effort to attend this meeting.

It makes for a very long day to drive to Hopkinsville from Louisville, Northern Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky.People like Rep. Belcher, Rep Perry Clark, Rep. Charles Siler, Sen. Dick Roeding, Sen. Denise Harper-Angel and Rep. Bill Farmer to name a few are to be commended. We hear so much about war and its effects, so I was glad for legislators to see first hand what it requires for our military to be prepared and take care of our military families.

On a personal note I completely deny any rumor that Rep. Tilley and myself got left behind by the military shuttle after being in the bathroom and were forced to hitch a ride with military personnel to the next destination on the tour.

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