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Veterans expect action at Minnesota State Capitol

Minnesota veterans groups assert this is the year lawmakers deliver on vets issues.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota veterans groups say they've been patient for years, but now is the time to make themselves heard at the state capitol.

The projected $9 billion surplus for the current two-year budget cycle is giving them reason to hope their lobbying efforts will yield real results this time around.

"We know very well how things have worked here at the capitol. We're here to say that is not the way it as to be," Trent Dilks, who heads Minnesota Disabled Veterans of America, told a hundreds of veterans who gathered in the state capitol Rotunda Wednesday. 

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The vets had marched there in the rain from the World War II Memorial on the opposite end of the Minnesota State Capitol Mall. The men and women belonged to all eight of the federally chartered veterans service organizations in the state, groups such as the DAV, American Legion and VFW.

The event, dubbed “Veterans Day on the Hill,” had the feel of a family reunion. Many of the traditional gatherings such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day events have moved online during the pandemic.

Their wish-list includes $40 million for service bonuses for veterans who joined after 9/11, and their families. They're also seeking increased funding for service groups, outreach, suicide provision, and efforts to relieve homelessness for veterans.

That includes support of a bonding project to pay the state's share of replacing the state veterans home in Hastings with a modern, higher-capacity facility.

Gov. Tim Walz, who spent 24 years in the Army National Guard, told the crowd he would sign the veterans bill even if it's the only other one he sees this session.

"If a veterans omnibus bill comes to my desk I will sign it, even it nothing else happens in this session. At least we can make progress on veterans. That needs to happen!"

State Veterans Commissioner Larry Herke said the post-9/11 veterans deserve recognition from the state, as well as Gold Star families who've lost a loved one in the military.

"We did it for veterans of World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, and the first Persian Gulf War," Commissioner Herke remarked.

"We need to do it for these people too."

The veterans' groups also support cutting property taxes for veterans service organization posts and increasing property tax relief for surviving spouses of veterans who've died.

The Walz Administration is also seeing $830,000 to continue development of the state veterans cemetery in Redwood Falls.

RELATED: Hastings veterans home seeks major upgrade

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