Minnesota has worked hard to provide incentives for people to join the National Guard. However, tucked inside the state government funding bill are budget reductions and shifts that cut enlistment bonuses and tuition for guard members and could force eventual closure of some greater Minnesota armories. The Republican-controlled House and Senate budget proposals fall more than $11.7 million short of the funding levels recommended by Governor Dayton. These funds would have covered tuition and other bonus programs for the next two years.
Both the House and Senate funding levels, if passed into law, would result in restriction of enlistment and re-enlistment incentives and would reduce the level of tuition reimbursement for our service members. These cuts will affect more than 1,900 Minnesota National Guard members.
Additionally, the Senate plan cuts another $6 million from the agency’s budget that was supposed to pay for upkeep on aging buildings and maintaining military vehicles. This unsustainable cut would be used to pay for other parts of the military’s budget. This shift is just another example of Republicans using budget gimmicks to mask their failure to support the department’s modest increase proposal.
The cut forces the Department of Military Affairs to pit taking care of our National Guard members against maintaining our military facilities and the safety of our state.
The proposed budget cuts were deep enough to fire up a senior officer of Minnesota’s National Guard, Major General Richard Nash, to write a terse letter to the Republican chair of the veterans committee.
The Major General stated that he would “. . . strongly urge you [the chair of the committee] to reconsider the current path, and fund the Department of Military Affairs at the level and in the fashion recommended by the Governor.”
The Department’s funding bill was wrapped into the State Government Finance bill which is working its way through the conference committee process over the next few weeks. Senate DFLers are committed to supporting the request of the departments. (SF 605)