A funding bill for a veterans nursing home in Ogden unanimously passed through the Senate Government Operations Committee on Tuesday.

The Senate will now debate the bill that would allocate $19.7 million to build the facility. The House unanimously approved the bill last week.

"There is a crying need for it, particularly up in the Weber County area," said Terry Schow, director of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The veterans nursing home is near the bottom of a federal funding list, and it will take another four or five years to finally see the 65 percent match the federal government promised, said Rep. Brad Dee, R-Washington Terrace, the bill's sponsor.

The state has been waiting for the federal match since 2005, when lawmakers approved a $4.5 million bond to cover the state's share of expenses. That bond was contingent on the federal funding.

HB129 repeals that $4.5 million bond and instead allows the state for the entire project and wait for the federal government to reimburse later.

Veterans thought the state would bite the bullet and pay for the facility during the 2007 legislative session, since a huge budget surplus was available. But lawmakers were hesitant, and unsure the federal government would actually come through with the money later.

Waiting for the federal money to come first could cause total construction costs to jump $6 million, Schow said.

Things changed this year, with leadership on both sides of the aisle and Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. supporting the funding bill.

"We got started a little bit on the wrong foot, not intentionally," Sen. Peter Knudson, R-Brigham City said. "We want to get this thing done, because there is a very real need."

E-mail: ldethman@desnews.com