Senate Report: Senate approves bipartisan legislation to support vets and military members

Published 8:45 pm Friday, April 28, 2023

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Senate Report by Gene Dornink

Friends and neighbors,

Gene Dornink

Recognizing the contributions of both current Minnesota military members and veterans is not a partisan issue. This notion was emphasized through the Senate’s strong bipartisan passage of the Veterans and Military Affairs budget bill to support our Minnesota service members.

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This bill provides support throughout the continuum of a service member’s life — from the recruitment bonuses when they sign up; training and equipment while they serve; support as they transition to civilian life; and support for them as they enter their golden years.

Specifically, this legislation provides support during military service and care for veterans struggling with homelessness and PTSD. It also increases funding for veterans’ cemeteries so they can be laid to rest with the respect they deserve.

Minnesota military members and veterans put their lives on the line to preserve our freedoms. We owe it to them to recognize their sacrifice and service.

Additionally, this week at the Capitol, Senate Republicans rolled out our “Students First” education plan that presents a better alternative to Democrats’ mandate-heavy education bills.

Our plan aims to directly assist students and address education shortfalls.

This plan sets itself apart from the Democrats’ plan by offering an alternative that prioritizes students, literacy, and funding that directly benefits learning in the classroom. The Democrats’ plan provides a 4% formula increase in 2024 and a 5% increase in 2025 (most of which is tied to funding mandates); a 47% increase for the special education cross-subsidy; only $41 million for literacy; and nothing for school safety.

To put Minnesota students first, our plan provides a 5% increase on the formula each year, with no new mandates; a 65% increase for the special education cross-subsidy; $100 million for literacy; and $200 million for school safety. The Students First plan also includes $100 million for additional support for property-wealth-poor districts through equalization.

Only half of Minnesota students are proficient readers. It’s time to get our schools back on the right track by focusing on core academics. That is why I strongly believe that literacy must be our focus. It is disheartening that Democrats do not share the same priority. Our students, teachers and schools deserve better.

The Senate also heard the Democrats’ Transportation budget bill this week. This legislation contains $2.7 billion in tax increases, including tab fee and vehicle registration taxes as well as motor vehicle tax hikes. The tax increases are part of Democrats’ $10 billion tax increase agenda, which they are seeking despite the state holding a record $17.5 billion budget surplus.

Among them:

  • $901.81 million: 8% increase to the vehicle registration tax. The bill also slows the vehicle depreciation schedule, so people could pay up to 33% more every year
  • $223 million: Increasing license tab fees. This is a $7.50 fee per transaction, so everybody will pay more
  • $214.8 million: Increasing the motor vehicle sales tax

The bill also provides $50 million for the controversial Northern Lights Express passenger train to Duluth. A Met Council report on Northstar rail found ridership is less than half of original projections and it requires the highest per-passenger subsidy and lowest fare recovery of any comparable rail line. On the heels of the Southwest Light Rail boondoggle, the bill also spends another $50 million to extend the Blue Line Light Rail line from Target Field to Brooklyn Park.

It is shocking that Democrats are looking to increase Minnesotans’ taxes and fees by $2.7 billion despite our state’s historic budget surplus. We should be looking for ways to provide financial relief to Minnesota families, not have them pay for even more government spending. Our roads and bridges need critical improvements. However, under this legislation,

Minnesotans are only getting higher costs, not better roads and bridges or safer transit.

Contact me

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me. I want to hear your thoughts and your priorities for this legislative session! Feel free to email me at or give me a call at 651-296-5240.

Gene Dornink, R-Brownsdale, is the District 23 senator.