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Minnesota National Guard
Governor unveils $74.8 million Military and Veterans support package

St Paul " Continuing his commitment to members of the military and veterans, Governor Tim Pawlenty today announced an historic $748 million Military and Veterans Support Package to assist veterans, active military members and their families

"The brave men and women in the military raise their hands and courageously serve all of us We owe them our appreciation and respect in our words and our deeds This Military and Veterans Support Package strongly sends that message," Governor Pawlenty said

The Governor's proposal includes two dozen initiatives The two largest items are a 100% exemption from state income tax for military pay and military pensions and a Minnesota GI Bill that will provide education benefits to thousands of veterans and their dependents The $748 million package of initiatives will be included in the Governor's budget proposal later this month

100% exemption from state income tax for military pay and pensions " $165 million

To reward their service and to help recruit future Soldiers, Governor Pawlenty proposes to fully exempt military income and pensions from state income tax

Minnesota Soldiers and veterans would be allowed to subtract 100 percent of their pay for military service, military pensions and retirement payments when computing state income tax These payments are currently considered taxable income Current members of the military, military retirees and survivors of military retirees will be allowed to claim the exemption It also covers the pay of all active duty service members who claim Minnesota as their state of residence

"Exempting military pay from state income tax is a way to show veterans that we appreciate them and want them to stay in Minnesota to help build an even greater state We need their skills, their patriotism and their sense of service," Governor Pawlenty said

According to the Defense Alliance of Minnesota, military retirees are highly valued as middle managers and providing this exemption would help attract and keep veterans in the Minnesota workplace

The exemption will be phased-in over a four year period and is expected to save veterans and military members $165 million in taxes in the next two-year budget period (FY 2008-09) and $423 million when fully phased-in

Minnesota GI Bill " $30 million

Governor Pawlenty is also proposing education benefits for military veterans and the children and spouses of Minnesota veterans who have become totally and permanently disabled or have died as a result of their military service

In some cases, current federal GI Bill benefits are not sufficient to cover the full cost of tuition, books, room and board, and other fees at postsecondary institutions The federal Educational Assistance Allowance is approximately $1,000 per month for 36 months, based on the number of classes attended The average four-year cost for tuition, fees, room and board at a Minnesota State University, for example, is about $45,000

The new Minnesota GI Bill would supplement the federal GI Bill by providing eligible veterans or eligible dependents $1,000 per semester for up to 5 years ($10,000 total) of higher education These benefits are "last dollar in" and would be paid to Minnesota veterans after they have received Pell Grants and other state and federal financial aid Veterans could attend any Minnesota college, university or technical school to receive these benefits

As many as 7,000 veterans and 600 spouses and dependents could apply to receive educational assistance per semester under this program

The new Minnesota GI Bill is expected to provide $30 million in benefits to Minnesota veterans for the two-year budget period

"The Minnesota GI Bill reflects our commitment to veterans by compensating them for the financial and career sacrifices made while serving our state and nation," Governor Pawlenty said "Just as the federal GI Bill helped America grow and prosper following WWII, the Minnesota GI Bill will help our veterans grow and prosper today"

The Governor's Military and Veterans Support Package also includes an additional 22 initiatives:

* Enhancing the State Soldier Assistance Program

* Establishing the State Reintegration Program - Beyond the Yellow Ribbon

* Establishing the State Achievement Ribbon

* Ensuring Firearms Certification for Returning Veterans

* Preferred State Contracting for Veteran-owned Business

* Enhanced Communication and Outreach to Veterans to assist with access to benefits

* Expanding Higher Education Offices

* Increase County Veteran Service Officer Grants

* Increased Funding for Veteran Organizations

* Improving Information Technology at the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs

* Armory Maintenance Program

* General Support Appropriation Increase

* Payment of Special Assessments levied against military facilities

* State Veteran Cemetery Increase

* Funding for increased rent and utility at Minnesota's Veterans Homes

* Repair and Betterments at Minnesota's Veterans Homes

* Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Fund at Camp Ripley

* Incentive Refinement

* Declaration of 148th Fighter Wing Fire Fighters as essential employees

* "Support Our Troops" License Plate refinement

* Increase funding for Minnesota Military Museum

* Preservation of Historic Flags

Complete details can be found on the Governor's Office website at wwwgovernorstatemnus

Throughout his first term, Governor Pawlenty proposed and signed legislation to support members of the military Initiatives that have been enacted include:

* 100% tuition reimbursement for members of the National Guard

* Special fund to assist military families and veterans through "Support our Troops" license plates

* Legislation that protects families from protestors at military funerals

* Appointment of a Military and Veterans Support Governor's Cabinet

* Executive Order requiring every state agency to review and improve policies and procedures to help veterans

* Veterans Summit (attended by more than 700 participants)

* Beyond the Yellow Ribbon reintegration initiative

* Increase of $2 million for State Soldiers Assistance Program that provides a financial assistance, medical coverage, and other support

* Service enhancement grants for County Veterans Service Officers

* Veterans Assistance offices to help veterans access educational assistance and other veterans benefits

* One stop website for veterans programs

* Higher Educational college credit for military training and experience

* In-state tuition rates for all veterans

* Job protection for family members of killed or injured Soldiers which guarantees up to ten days of unpaid leave

January 8, 2007
Contact: Brian McClung
(651) 296-0001

Article source: http://www.governor.state.mn.us/mediacenter/pressreleases/printerfriendly/PROD007899.html

NorthStar GUARD Online: 1/8/07
Military support package photo gallery

By 5 Eyewitness News

Gov. Tim Pawlenty unveils his proposal of a $74.8 million military and veteran's support package Monday that will assist veterans, active military members, and military families of Minnesota.
(Run time 0:26)

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