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SPRINGFIELD - Money set aside for veterans' rehabilitation could not be raided for other state spending under a proposal before the General Assembly.

The state could no longer divert surplus money from the Veterans Rehabilitation fund, which helps disabled former soldiers get and keep jobs.

State Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Berwyn, sponsor of Senate Bill 2125, said the state has taken nearly $1 million from the fund over the last three years.

The fund provided $1.9 million for staff and expenses associated with helping disabled veterans during this budget cycle.

Another $2.4 million was used to capture federal matching dollars.

The rehabilitation money is provided from unclaimed winnings from horse tracks

The Blagojevich administration has defended these fund sweeps as necessary to balancing the budget. The governor's budget office also has said money would be put back in special funds, if it is needed.

Vets plates OK'd

A Senate committee also approved Senate Bill 2130 Tuesday that would create the Iraqi Freedom license plate. A portion of the plate fee would be used for veterans' assistance.

The proposal, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson, R-Greenville, would also restrict the administration's ability to divert the money raised from the plate sale.

The plate would cost $40 to purchase and $27 for renewal, and $25 from each charge would be funneled into grants for financial and education aid to children of soldiers who died or where disabled in the line of duty.

The measure passed 9-0 and now heads to the full Senate.

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