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Honoring our Military Heroes: Governor Pawlenty introduces 100% exemption from State Income Tax for Military Pay and Pensions; Minnesota GI Bill to provide Education Benefits

~ Governor unveils $74.8 million Military and Veterans support package ~

January 8, 2007 - Continuing his commitment to members of the military and veterans, Governor Tim Pawlenty today announced an historic $74.8 million Military and Veterans Support Package to assist veterans, active military members and their families.

“The brave men and women in the military raise their hands and courageously serve all of us. We owe them our appreciation and respect in our words and our deeds. This Military and Veterans Support Package strongly sends that message,” Governor Pawlenty said.

The Governor’s proposal includes two dozen initiatives. The two largest items are a 100% exemption from state income tax for military pay and military pensions and a Minnesota GI Bill that will provide education benefits to thousands of veterans and their dependents. The $74.8 million package of initiatives will be included in the Governor’s budget proposal later this month.

100% exemption from state income tax for military pay and pensions – $16.5 million

To reward their service and to help recruit future soldiers, Governor Pawlenty proposes to fully exempt military income and pensions from state income tax.

Minnesota soldiers and veterans would be allowed to subtract 100 percent of their pay for military service, military pensions and retirement payments when computing state income tax. These payments are currently considered taxable income. Current members of the military, military retirees and survivors of military retirees will be allowed to claim the exemption. It also covers the pay of all active duty service members who claim Minnesota as their state of residence.

“Exempting military pay from state income tax is a way to show veterans that we appreciate them and want them to stay in Minnesota to help build an even greater state. We need their skills, their patriotism and their sense of service,” Governor Pawlenty said.

According to the Defense Alliance of Minnesota, military retirees are highly valued as middle managers and providing this exemption would help attract and keep veterans in the Minnesota workplace.

The exemption will be phased-in over a four year period and is expected to save veterans and military members $16.5 million in taxes in the next two-year budget period (FY 2008-09) and $42.3 million when fully phased-in.

Minnesota GI Bill – $30 million

Governor Pawlenty is also proposing education benefits for military veterans and the children and spouses of Minnesota veterans who have become totally and permanently disabled or have died as a result of their military service.

In some cases, current federal GI Bill benefits are not sufficient to cover the full cost of tuition, books, room and board, and other fees at postsecondary institutions. The federal Educational Assistance Allowance is approximately $1,000 per month for 36 months, based on the number of classes attended. The average four-year cost for tuition, fees, room and board at a Minnesota State University, for example, is about $45,000.

The new Minnesota GI Bill would supplement the federal GI Bill by providing eligible veterans or eligible dependents $1,000 per semester for up to 5 years ($10,000 total) of higher education. These benefits are “last dollar in” and would be paid to Minnesota veterans after they have received Pell Grants and other state and federal financial aid. Veterans could attend any Minnesota college, university or technical school to receive these benefits.

As many as 7,000 veterans and 600 spouses and dependents could apply to receive educational assistance per semester under this program.

The new Minnesota GI Bill is expected to provide $30 million in benefits to Minnesota veterans for the two-year budget period.

“The Minnesota GI Bill reflects our commitment to veterans by compensating them for the financial and career sacrifices made while serving our state and nation,” Governor Pawlenty said. “Just as the federal GI Bill helped America grow and prosper following WWII, the Minnesota GI Bill will help our veterans grow and prosper today.”

The Governor’s Military and Veterans Support Package also includes an additional 22 initiatives:

Complete details can be found on the Governor’s Office website at www.governor.state.mn.us.

Throughout his first term, Governor Pawlenty proposed and signed legislation to support members of the military. Initiatives that have been enacted include:

Complete package details (PDF)