|Denny Christiansen, a veteran of the U.S. Army|
Minnesota is home to nearly 400,000 veterans and Governor Mark Dayton is committed to honoring the service and sacrifice of each one. This year, the Governor and the DFL legislature focused on increasing access to:
Access to Jobs and Education
Governor Dayton’s budget increases access to good job opportunities and affordable education to help our veterans successfully transition into civilian life. To help Minnesota veterans find employment, the new budget includes new tax credits to encourage businesses to hire disabled or unemployed veterans. And to better support small businesses owned by veterans, legislation passed that allows local governments to offer bid preferences to veteran-owned businesses.
The new state budget also helps veterans interested in getting additional education. Improvements to the Minnesota GI Bill http://www.ohe.state.mn.us/mPg.cfm?pageID=1803 will help all veterans and the families of those killed in the line of duty attend colleges and universities.
Safe, secure housing
A 2009 study confirmed that Minnesota has hundreds of homeless veterans. The Governor’s budget increases funding for the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans http://www.mac-v.org/ (MCAV) to ensure that Minnesota veterans have access to safe and secure housing. The MCAV assists homeless veterans and those in danger of becoming homeless.
Veterans’ homes are critical to addressing homelessness as well. The budget allocates $20.4 million to create 93 permanent rental housing units for veterans who have experienced homelessness. Additionally, it funds improvements for the Minneapolis, Fergus Falls, Silver Bay, and Luverne veterans’ homes.
Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs unveiled a newly redesigned website.In our continuing effort to be in the forefront of providing the best service and care to our state’s Veterans, the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs unveiled a newly redesigned website. Nearly 370,000 Veterans call Minnesota home and they can now access information through this comprehensive and exciting new resource at MinnesotaVeteran.org.
Nearly 400,000 veterans call Minnesota home. Their commitment to service and their personal sacrifices have earned them the right to education, opportunities, and benefits.
Governor Dayton’s budget seeks to underscore the service these men and women have given to our country and our state through GI Bill expansion, increased veteran services funding to secure benefits, Honor Guard preservation, and Health Care IT infrastructure improvements to raise the quality of care for our veterans to the highest degree.
The men and women of our armed forced have invaluable skills, skills the state of Minnesota looks to preserve and foster. The funds allocated in the budget invest in our veterans, help create a better Minnesota, and help veterans succeed.
» $1 Million to Expand the Minnesota GI Bill. The Governor’s budget expands the Minnesota GI Bill program to all generations of veterans, not just those serving on or after 9/11. This expansion will ensure all Minnesota veterans have access to the education and training they need to get good paying jobs.
» $1 Million for County Veteran Service Office Grants. The Governor’s budget provides increased grant funding for County Veteran Services Offices, which help veterans and their families obtain benefits and services earned through military service.
» $5 Million for Health Care IT Improvement. The Governor’s budget invests in IT infrastructure upgrades at the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs. This investment will allow the department to achieve industry standards in delivering high-quality health care to Minnesota veterans and ensure their safety.
» $400,000 for Honor Guards. The Governor’s budget includes $400,000 in permanent funding for the Honor Guard Program, which supports veterans and their families by providing military burial honors earned through their service and sacrifice. Governor Dayton is committed to ensuring all veterans who request funeral honors receive them.
» $200,000 for the Gold Star Program. The Governor’s budget includes $200,000 in permanent funding for the Gold Star Program, which supports the families of those service members who lost their lives in combat as they heal from their loss.
» $425,000 for new State Veterans Cemetery in Fillmore County. The Governor’s budget includes start-up and ongoing funding for a new state veterans cemetery in Fillmore County, opening in 2015. This State Veterans Cemetery will provide burial space for nearly 40,000 veterans. Governor Dayton believes every veteran deserves a dignified final resting place.
The MPCA is a major partner of Clean Air Minnesota’s Project Green Fleet (PGF). Since it began in 2005, PGF has worked with school districts and school bus fleet operators to retrofit buses with Diesel Oxidation Catalysts and closed crankcase filtration systems.
After two years in office, Governor Mark Dayton is continuing to make important progress toward building a Better Minnesota.
One crucial measure of that progress is improving the health of Minnesotans, which is essential to a high quality of life in Minnesota. Governor Dayton is pursuing a variety of strategies to improve the health of individuals, families, and communities across our state, including increasing access to high quality, affordable health insurance and promoting strong community health programs. The Dayton Administration is focused on improving the quality of life for all Minnesotans, and lowering the cost of health care in our great state of Minnesota.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has worked to reduce diesel emission in school buses, snowplows, fire trucks, and other large vehicles. Emissions retrofits on school buses alone have improved air quality for nearly 85,000 kids in 91 school districts statewide.
In 2012, MPCA focused on reducing diesel emission in long-haul semi-trucks. At current fuel prices, retrofits made to 282 vehicle engines, and reduced idling on 155 trucks, will save trucking companies $600,000 each year in fuel costs. Health benefits derived from these emissions reductions are estimated to total $123.5 million.
Employment Resource Team from the National Guard, with the help of the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), traveled to Kuwait in March 2012 in order to provide workshops and job search assistance for 1,080 soldiers from 10 different states
Two years into his administration, Governor Dayton continues to make crucial progress towards building a Better Minnesota. Measuring that progress by the improvements Minnesotans have seen in their lives, families, communities, and economy, the Dayton Administration is taking inventory of what has been accomplished over the last two years and considering the work ahead.
One important measure of that progress is improving the condition of Minnesota’s economy. Governor Dayton is focused on getting Minnesotans back to work by creating opportunities for all Minnesotans. A successful economy requires strong business growth, a skilled workforce and employment opportunities for everyone.
Helping Minnesota veterans find employment opportunity has been a high priority for Governor Dayton. So when an employment survey of Minnesota National Guard soldiers serving in Kuwait showed that over 900 soldiers (28%) would not have a job when they returned from combat, the Dayton Administration took action.
Following the survey, an Employment Resource Team from the National Guard, with the help of the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), traveled to Kuwait in March 2012 in order to provide workshops and job search assistance for 1,080 soldiers from 10 different states. Those efforts delivered results for hundreds of military families who may otherwise have faced the prolonged challenges of unemployment.
Of the 2,700 Minnesota soldiers returning from Kuwait last spring, only 78 are still unemployed – a 90% improvement in only four months.
Rendering for new homeless veterans supportive housing development on the VA Medical Campus in St. Cloud
The Dayton Administration recently announced a $20.4 million Minnesota Housing Finance project that will help homeless veterans find support and housing. The grant will create nearly 100 units of permanent supportive rental housing for veterans who have experienced homelessness. In St. Cloud, the funding will create 35 new housing units on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical campus and another 58 units will be created by renovating five historic buildings at Fort Snelling's upper post in Minneapolis.
The veterans housing developments are part of $134 million in housing awards from Minnesota Housing to build, preserve and support affordable housing across the state. These developments were made possible in part by the 2012 bonding bill, which included $30 million in Housing Infrastructure bond proceeds, including more than $9 million to build the veterans developments.
“From rehabilitating historic buildings at Fort Snelling for homeless veterans to preserving critical affordable housing in greater Minnesota, we are able to help fill critical gaps in housing,” said Minnesota Housing Commissioner Mary Tingerthal. “The impact of the total leverage created by the $134 million housing investment will create more than 4,500 jobs and will assist nearly 3,100 households across the state.”