KOREAN WAR VETERANS' ELIGIBILITY FOR BONUS ‑- AVAILABILITY OF FUNDS REMAINING FROM BOND ISSUE AUTHORIZED TO PAY BONUS FOR WORLD WAR II VETERANS
(1) The unexpended proceeds from the sale of World War II veterans' bonus bonds may by appropriate legislation be applied to pay bonuses for veterans of the Korean War.
(2) The balance of the bonds previously authorized but not yet sold may be issued and the proceeds applied to a bonus for veterans of the Korean War.
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December 31, 1954
Honorable Neil J. Hoff
State Senator, 27th District
Tacoma, Washington Cite as: AGO 53-55 No. 375
We have your request for an opinion in which you ask us to consider the following questions:
(1) Could the unexpended proceeds from the sale of World War II veterans' bonus bonds be applied to pay bonuses to veterans of the Korean War, if such bonuses were authorized by statute?
(2) Could the balance of the bonds previously authorized, but not yet sold, be issued and the proceeds applied to a bonus for veterans of the Korean War?
In our opinion both questions may be answered in the affirmative.
Chapter 73.32 RCW, as derived from chapter 180, Laws of 1949, provides for [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] payment of a bonus for veterans of this state who were in the regular military service between December 7, 1941 and September 2, 1945. The act further provides for the issuance of limited obligation bonds by the state under the general supervision and control of the State Finance Committee, in the sum of eighty million dollars. The money arising from the sale of such bonds is required by the act to be deposited in a special fund designated as the War Veterans' Compensation Fund.
To finance this bond issue the legislature provided in the same act that all revenue derived from the excise tax on cigarettes be deposited in a special trust fund. This fund is entitled "The War Veterans' Compensation Bond Retirement Fund" and is to be available solely for the payment of principal and interest on these particular bonds. InGruen v. State Tax Commission, 35 Wn. (2d) 1, the Supreme Court held the bonus act to be constitutional.
We are advised that seventy-five million dollars worth of the bonds have been issued. There is a cash balance in the War Veterans' Compensation Fund of approximately eight million dollars. If the balance of the authorized bonds were issued, the total in this fund would amount to approximately thirteen million dollars.
One of the conditions of the bonds heretofore issued is that all of the state revenues derived from the excise tax on cigarettes are pledged for the retirement of the principal and interest on these bonds. The only exception to this is a provision in the bonds that revenues paid into the bond retirement fund in excess of four million, five hundred thousand dollars in any one year shall be transferred to the General Fund. None of the monies deposited in the bond retirement fund may be diverted to any other purpose than authorized by the statutes making the appropriation in 1949. To attempt this by subsequent legislation would offend the prohibition contained in Article 1, § 23 of the state constitution relating to laws impairing the obligation of contracts.
We find no constitutional obstacle to expanding, by appropriate legislation, the scope of eligibility for compensation from the War Veterans' Compensation Fund. Indeed, on three occasions since 1949 the legislature has done just that. In 1950 the class of dependents of deceased veterans who could qualify for [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] compensation was enlarged; in 1951 a class of persons who had served in noncombat duty by reason of religious scruples was made eligible; and in 1953 the legislature provided machinery for payment to guardians of mentally incompetent veterans who had been unable to make application under the terms of the original act.
It is our opinion that both the unexpended proceeds from the sale of World War II veterans' bonus bonds and the proceeds of the sale of bonds heretofore authorized but not yet issued may, by appropriate legislation, be made available for the purpose of providing a bonus to the veterans of the Korean War.
Very truly yours,
Assistant Attorney General