The Department of Veterans Affairs seeks an increase of 50% over its base appropriation from the General Fund for fiscal years 2024-25, the House Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee learned Monday.
One of the largest new expenditures included in the $284 million budget proposed by the governor is $20 million to help pay the startup costs for new veterans homes currently under construction in Bemidji, Montevideo and Preston.
Commissioner Larry Herke said the homes, which are 70% to 80% complete and due to open later this year, will add 198 additional beds for veterans in Greater Minnesota. He said the additional funding would be used to hire and train staff, among other costs, as the homes work to reach 70% capacity in their first year.
“I think this budget request reflects a serious commitment to Minnesota’s nearly 300,000 veterans and their families,” Herke said, adding that almost one third of the $95.5 million increase proposed would be one-time funding, including $22 million for service bonus payments to more eligible veterans.
Other major change items in the department’s programs and services division include funding increases of:
In addition to the money for veterans homes, change items in the department’s health care and homes division would include $29.59 million more for operational expenses and an additional $1.29 million for suicide prevention and community health.
The committee also heard a presentation from the Department of Military Affairs’ on its budget proposal, which includes an operating budget appropriation of $58.79 million from the General Fund during the upcoming biennium, a $7.61 million increase.
The five change items proposed include $1.53 million for the Minnesota National Guard to staff Holistic Health and Fitness initiatives, which the U.S. Army has adopted and invested heavily in as a core part of its physical training program, but currently has no short-term plan to fund reserve programs.
There is also $1.17 million for the guard to create a new Cyber Coordination Cell to staff its cyber initiatives and work with other state and federal agencies to plan for and respond to cyber incidents.
Other change items from the base appropriation include: