To the editor,
The Detroit Lakes Tribune recently published an article regarding veterans that was factually inaccurate and included a gross misrepresentation of how Minnesota treats service members.
In “Military honor cuts affects veteran funerals in Minnesota” published online Oct. 8, the newspaper erroneously indicated the state of Minnesota cut the program which sends National Guard soldiers trained specifically for these funerals. The fact is, any reduced funding for honor guards is the product of the federal government’s across-the-board sequestration cuts.
This was not a state reduction.
To the contrary, the 2015 state government finance bill included a provision now in statute which reads: “Honor Guards. $200,000 each year is for compensation for honor guards at the funerals of veterans under Minnesota Statutes, section 197.231.”
That is $400,000 total for fiscal years 2015-16, the exact same amount the state provided in the 2013-14 biennium. In 2012 a single-subject bill was enacted to provide funding for honor guards since the pot was running low for that biennium.
As for the gross misrepresentation, the article also states “the state of Minnesota cut yet another veterans program” in reference to the honor guards, but fails to identify any other reduced programs. Maybe that is because this was, in fact, a historically productive two years in terms of measures enacted in support of veterans – policy and funding alike. Here are just a few of the many accomplishments led to enactment in just this biennium:
Excluding all military retirement pay from state income taxes.
Increasing funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs and state veterans homes by $17 million.
Providing funding to study unmet mental health needs for veterans.
Making it easier for veteran-owned small businesses to get state government contracts.
Providing an additional $200,000 to the State Soldiers Assistance Fund.
These are crucial advances in supporting the men and women who sacrifice so much to protect us and defend our liberties which, coincidentally, includes upholding the First Amendment and our cherished freedom of the press.
Rep. Steve Green, R-Fosston