ARLINGTON — Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis proposed Thursday to help Texas veterans and military families with everything from finding jobs to treating mental health issues.Davis, a state senator from Fort Worth, said she will stand up for veterans and Texas military to make sure they have what they need to create a good future.“We have the responsibility to create opportunities for them,” Davis said during a press conference at the University of Texas at Arlington. “The least we can do is try to repay the debt we owe them.“I will never shortchange them.”Davis and Republican nominee, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, are waging a multimillion-dollar battle to become Texas’ 48th governor. Other candidates in this year’s governor’s race include Libertarian Kathie Glass and Green Party candidate Brandon Parmer.Abbott has already released his plans to help Texas veterans and military bases, which range from giving tax breaks to Texans who hire veterans and calling on the legislature to provide enough money for officials to protect and preserve bases throughout the state.“I have a plan to get vets back to work in Texas,” Abbott has said. “I will work with community and military leaders to develop a plan that will improve infrastructure, job training and educational opportunities for military families. “No state offers greater support for the mission of the military and its servicemen and women than Texas. I will keep it that way.”The Davis planDavis said her plan to help the more than 1.6 million veterans in Texas calls for expanding job opportunities for veterans by requiring all Texas Enterprise Fund recipients to hire a “substantial” number of veterans. She also wants to safeguard existing veterans services and programs, particularly the Fund for Veterans assistance.Davis said she wants to increase access to higher education for veterans, which is why she will champion the hiring of veteran-focused professional career advisers to help those with military service determine the best fit for them in civilian jobs. She also wants to improve on-campus living arrangements for veterans and their families.A key piece of her plan, she said, is promoting research on mental health care to make sure that veterans who have been impacted by war-related trauma can find the help they need. To do that, she will make the review of mental health among veterans an emergency priority in when legislators head back to work in 2015. She also will call for a review of suicide rates among veterans and ask for ways to better suicide prevention programs. She also wants to make sure the use of veterans courts and peer-to-peer counseling programs continues.Davis also said she will support and push for a VA hospital in the Rio Grande Valley, create a Strike Force Team to handle the overload of disability claims and support programs that offer other health care options to VA medical centers. She also said she will support using innovative technology such as telemedicine to help veterans.Davis said she wants to create an advisory committee on women veterans and will work to protect housing assistance, including homestead exemptions, for veterans. And she said she will work with officials, including Texas’ congressional delegation, to be prepared for the next round of base realignments and closures.“Our choices on education will determine our future, but the way we treat our veterans will be the greatest reflection of whether or not we even live up to values that must guide and shape our future if Texas is going to lead in the 21st century,” Davis said. “The future for our veterans starts with education and creating real opportunities for the high-paying jobs of the future.”Abbott’s plansEarlier this year, Abbott wrote a column about his plan to protect Texas’ military bases. He said he will, as governor, establish the Texas Military Preparedness Commission as a separate office, ask the legislature for funds to protect Texas’ military communities and work with military and community leaders to “develop a strategic plan to enhance Texas military facilities.”“Military facilities have an immense impact on the Texas economy,” he said. “Texans are proud to host these installations and we will work to keep them here.”And regarding veterans, his plan calls for waiving examination and fee requirements for veterans trying to obtain various licenses issued by the state; giving local option property tax exemptions to commercial property owners for each newly-hired veteran, exempting new veteran-owned businesses from the Texas Franchise Tax for the first five years of a business; and putting in place strategic planning to prevent base closures in Texas during the next Base Realignment and Closure process.
Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley