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House passes veterans, military affairs conference committee report

New veterans homes in Bemidji, Montevideo and Preston scheduled to open this summer would receive $20 million under one provision of the omnibus veterans and military affairs finance bill.

Members adopted the conference committee report on HF1937, then voted 131-0 to repass the bill Monday. It includes $378.68 million in net General Fund spending from fiscal years 2023-25 – an increase of $132.15 million.

That new spending includes $90.06 million for the Department of Veterans Affairs and $39.14 million for the Department of Military Affairs.

Sponsored by Rep. Jerry Newton (DFL-Coon Rapids) and Sen. Nicole Mitchell (DFL-Woodbury), the bill must also be repassed by the Senate before it can reach Gov. Tim Walz for his signature.

Newton said the final product is nearly the same as the bill the House passed at the end of April aside from two “small changes,” one of which was a provision that was removed but he pledged to continue working on.

Rep. Mark Wiens (R-Lake Elmo) supports the bill “which does so many good things,” but would have liked provisions to ensure transparent oversight of the included appropriations.

“Unfortunately, that’s missing from this bill,” he said. “In this time where we’ve seen fraud, waste and abuse, the one thing we don’t want to do is revictimize any of our veterans, or our citizens.”

Other new spending appropriations in the bill include:

  • $33.23 million operating adjustment for the VA;
  • $20.06 million in operational funding for three new veterans homes in Bemidji, Montevideo and Preston that are due to open later this year;
  • $17.6 million to build an Army Combat Fitness Test Field House in Arden Hills for soldiers to train for tests they must pass to maintain physical readiness;
  • $15 million for service bonuses to post-9/11 veterans;
  • $7 million to increase supportive housing grants for the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans; and
  • $3 million enlistment and retention bonuses.

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