Supplemental spending, GI Bill expansion passed

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A supplemental spending bill that includes a proposed expansion of the state’s GI Bill program won House approval.

Rep. Mary Liz Holberg (R-Lakeville) sponsors HF2958 that fulfils a number of Gov. Mark Dayton’s supplemental budget requests, including $100,000 for military honor guards and $515,000 to reimburse law enforcement officers for purchasing body armor.

The bill would also expand the state’s GI Bill to include funding for apprenticeship and on-the-job training programs for post-9/11 veterans and some family members. Currently, the GI Bill provides only postsecondary education benefits.

The House passed the bill 80-50. It now moves to the Senate, where Sen. Claire Robling (R-Jordan) is the sponsor.

Under the provisions, eligible individuals could receive up to $2,000 for either an apprenticeship or on-the-job training. Employers would be eligible for a $1,000 job placement credit for each hire, and another $1,000 after they have employed the individual full-time for 12 consecutive months.

Officials say the GI Bill program is currently under-utilized. Dayton proposed the expansion as a way of attacking high unemployment among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans — though his original plan included making previous generations of veterans eligible for the program as well.

Rep. Carolyn McElfatrick (R-Deer River) sponsors the provision as a standalone bill, HF2909, which awaits action on the House floor.

Other provisions in the bill include:

  • adding House and Senate minority representation on the Legislative Advisory Commission;
  • restricting the ability of Minnesota Management & Budget to authorize the expenditure of federal funds without LAC approval; and
  • establishing a validation procedure for a pay-for-performance bonding pilot program enacted in 2011.

Rep. Lyndon Carlson Sr. (DFL-Crystal) noted that officials from the Dayton administration object to the LAC-related provisions in the bill, saying they erode executive authority. He also said the bill’s funding depended on lower debt service spending, which would preclude passage of a larger bonding bill than what House Republicans are proposing.