Republican legislators, along with the advocacy group Concerned Veterans for America, introduced several bills today aimed at providing veterans with increased opportunities to live and work in Minnesota. The “Saluting Service” package focuses on targeted tax relief (SF 40), expanding employment opportunities (SF 199), and 2nd amendment rights (SF 365).
Several recent studies have found Minnesota falling behind the rest of the nation in “friendliness” to veterans. Personal finance website WalletHub ranked Minnesota 46th in the nation in economic environment for military retirees. SF 40, authored by Senator Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) and Rep. Josh Heintzeman (R-Brainerd) addresses veterans’ economic concerns by exempting their military pensions from the state income tax.
“The unfortunate fact is Minnesota has consistently ranked in the bottom half of states to retire as a veteran. There are two million retired military members in America today, and Minnesota is home to less than 1% of them because we offer no retirement incentives to vets,” said Senator Gazelka. “Supporters of this bill agree Minnesota’s military retirees are an asset worth our investment.”
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, a disparity remains between unemployment rates of veterans and the general unemployment rate. SF 199, sponsored by Senator Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) and Rep. Bob Dettmer (R-Forest Lake) creates a veterans job tax credit for employers who hire disabled veterans, unemployed veterans or 9-11 veterans. The job tax credit will equal ten percent of wages paid with a $3,000 cap for disabled veterans, a $1,500 cap for unemployed veterans and a $500 cap for 9-11 veterans.
“Recently in this country and in Minnesota, veterans are becoming a larger part of our unemployment statistics, and we need to put an end to that trend,” said Senator Nelson. “This initiative will make it easier for employers to hire a veteran, creating a win-win for veterans and our growing economy.”
The last bill in the “Saluting Service” package would allow returning military members and recently-retired veterans who have completed basic training to hunt without obtaining a firearms safety certificate. Senator Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake) and Rep. Eric Lucero (R-Dayton) have authored SF 365. Current law exempts only those on active duty from obtaining a hunting license without a firearms safety certificate.
“These men and women have gone through extensive weapons training during their time in the armed forces. Removing this barrier for our veterans is just one more way that we can make Minnesota a veteran-friendly state,” Senator Kiffmeyer explained.
The Minnesota State Director for Concerned Veterans for America, Jason Quick, expressed support for veteran-friendly legislation at the press conference. “Retired military veterans have a great deal to offer the state of Minnesota. Many have an entrepreneurial spirit, creating jobs and remaining valuable members of the workforce even after military retirement. We need to welcome them back to Minnesota.”