ST. PAUL – State Representative Paul Torkelson (R-Watonwan County) voted against cuts to veterans and agriculture programs in a House committee recently, saying the cuts to former and current members of the military are too severe.
“With the thousands of Minnesotans serving overseas, we need to be prepared to meet their needs when they return home,” Torkelson said. “The last thing we need to do is undermine their commitment to their state and country through program reductions or elimination.”
Torkelson said House Democrat proposal sets state budget and spending targets for agriculture and veterans affairs programs for the next two years.
Minnesota’s Veterans Affairs Department would receive nearly $193 million over the next two years if no changes were made in the current budget. Governor Pawlenty urged the Legislature to raise that total to $203 million, resulting in a 5.2% increase.
But the House Democrat proposal Torkelson opposed would reduce that total to roughly $187 million, which is 3% less than the current budget and 8.4% below the Governor's proposal.
“When you face a $6 billion budget deficit, you have to set priorities,” Torkelson said. “That said, when it comes to veterans issues it really shouldn’t matter if we’re in a deficit or not. Those who chose to fight for our country should always be a top state priority.”
Torkelson said the agriculture portion of the bill is $5 million less than what Governor Pawlenty had recommended, which includes significant cuts in ethanol producer payments.
After making two more committee stops, Torkelson expects the full House to debate the agriculture and veterans affairs funding bill next week.