7 July 2022
ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The Minnesota Legislature in the final weeks of session approved $25 million in bonus pay for veterans who served following the 9/11 terror attacks.
The bonuses range from $600 to $2,000 and more than 40,000 veterans are eligible, the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs estimates. Applications are set to open July 7, said Larry Herke, the commissioner of Veterans Affairs.
Gov. Tim Walz held a ceremonial bill signing Thursday. Walz and lawmakers praised it as a bipartisan effort that prioritizes men and women who served in the U.S. Armed Forces and their families.
“We will never trade a good policy on veterans’ issues for another issue,” said Walz, who is a veteran of the National Guard. “We will never put you in the last minute negotiations. We will simply move the policies, debate the policies and fund the policies that make the biggest impact on veterans and their families.”
The veterans omnibus bill, touted as the first of its kind in recent memory, is one of the few key priorities the legislature completed before adjournment late last month.
It includes funding to combat veteran homelessness, a boost to veterans homes and it also expands enlistment bonuses for members of the Minnesota National Guard, who have experienced an unprecedented two years supporting the state on its response to the pandemic, civil unrest and severe weather.
“Minnesotans have seen the men and women of the Minnesota Army National Guard step forward and be of tremendous service,” said Sen. Zach Duckworth, R-Lakeville, a veteran of the Guard.
Walz Is Still Pushing For Special Session To Wrap Up Unfinished Business
The session ended with billions of the state’s record budget surplus left on the table, including for public safety and education.
Walz wants a special session for the legislature to wrap up unfinished business, but it’s unclear if that will happen. As of Thursday, Walz and leaders appeared no closer in negotiations than they did when session ended.
The governor said that he, DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman and GOP Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller are set to meet Friday.
“I’m still optimistic,” Walz said of a special session, adding he hopes the three of them can “get through those log jams” during the Friday meeting.
“I don’t know how it’s a message to go back and tell your constituents that we just couldn’t get it done and there’s a big room up there with $12 billion in it and boy it would be nice if Minnesotans could get that—they can get it today,” he added.
Miller has not committed to a special session. He’s taken aim at Democrats for the legislature’s failure to wrap up the outstanding details of a “global” agreement between legislative leaders and the governor, which included $4 billion in additional and spending and $4 billion in tax cuts.
“We made countless good faith efforts by putting forward public offers that would have earned bipartisan public support,” Miller said, in a statement. “Time and time again, the agreement was compromised by Democrats’ refusal to take the deadline seriously or provide offers within the agreed-to framework.”