I have been thinking recently about the special bond our country has with its military veterans. As the grandson of a World War II Navy veteran, I am acutely aware of our nation's commitment to its veterans and their families, who have sacrificed to preserve our freedom. I cherish this bond and recognize the duty that those of us who have benefitted from the protection and security that these patriots have made possible owe for their service and sacrifice. This week’s contribution to the Summer Policy Series, takes a look at the initiatives I have worked on with regard to honoring the service of our state’s veterans.
Based on 2016 data from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, New Jersey is home to more than 400,00 veterans. Specifically, Burlington County has the second highest concentration in the state. Our nation’s veterans and active duty military have dedicated themselves for each of us. They deserve the very best opportunities and benefits we can provide. I have championed initiatives to improve access to benefits for our veterans and to ensure that when active duty service members return home, more job opportunities are available to them, and the educational and training tools needed for success in the private sector are easily accessible.
There is a saying that comes with those who have given of themselves to defend our country, "Some gave all, but all gave something." This statement underscores the covenant that we, as a free society, have made to our veterans. As referenced earlier, the American people hold a sacred trust with our men and women in uniform. We must maintain that bond when they serve abroad and when they return home. This bond demands that we honor their service by treating them every day with the dignity and respect that these patriots deserve. It's also about providing them with the care they need and the benefits that they have earned when the battle is over.
We must not forget that beyond our emotional and patriotic ties with our veterans, there is a real, everyday world that soldiers and sailors face when they leave the military. After attending patriotic ceremonies and wearing their uniform for the final time, they face the often- discomforting question of “what’s next?”
There is no ambiguity about what they did. They served our nation, placing themselves in harm's way or they supported fellow soldiers and sailors who were. They signed on the dotted line and committed themselves to defending you, me, our families and our nation.
The litmus test for us — after all the glowing testimonials we offer — is this: What have we done to support them? What have we done to ensure that their transition to civilian life is as smooth as possible? What have we done to assist them if they run into a roadblock in the workplace or at home? How have we helped with physical or psychological challenges? I hope most of us can answer these questions in the affirmative.
I have focused much of my attention on veterans. The list below provides some of the significant initiatives that I have sponsored on this topic and are at the very heart of my efforts on behalf of veterans. You can easily review the initiatives I have undertaken by visiting my legislation page.
Here is one example: A305: Battlefield to Boardroom Act.
The purpose this legislation is to provide hiring incentives for businesses as it relates to veterans. Veterans know how to lead a team, complete a task under pressure and do a job with a sense of pride. These honorable men and women would be excellent contributors in the civilian workplace, so encouraging employers to consider them when hiring truly benefits all parties involved. “The New Jersey Battlefield to Boardroom Act," would provide a corporation business tax credit and gross income tax credit for qualified wages of certain veterans. The two credits established by this bill would provide an employer with a credit in the amount of 10 percent of the wages paid to a veteran. The credits may not exceed $1,200 for each qualified veteran per tax year.
The proposal also contains provisions aimed at preventing potential misuse of the credit. The bill prohibits taxpayers from simultaneously using the wages or employment of a veteran to qualify for this credit and any other generally available employment incentive that comes in the form of a New Jersey tax credit or grant. The director of the Division of Taxation would be permitted to recapture credit, plus an additional 50 percent penalty, if it is determined that an employer has wrongly taken advantage of the credit. For veterans, a major part of a successful transition to civilian life involves securing a good job. Given veterans' work ethic, proficiency with modern technology and ability to solve tough problems under tough conditions, a tax incentive is just another item on a long list of benefits to hiring former service members in New Jersey.
That’s my take, what’s yours?
A143 - Broadens eligibility for certain veterans' benefits by eliminating requirement of service during specified dates or in specified locations
A305 - The New Jersey Battlefield to Boardroom Act; Provides corporation business tax credits and gross income tax credits for qualified wages of certain veterans
A306 - "New Jersey Housing Assistance for Veterans Act," establishes pilot program to assist certain veterans with housing modification and rehabilitation; appropriates $5 million
A323 - Requires annual General Fund appropriation to DMVA for purposes of base realignment and closure
A332 - Requires issuance of one free copy of birth certificate for child born in New Jersey to active duty service member
A605 - Requires DOE to create military-connected student identifier for inclusion in student-level database
A844 - Excludes Armed Services combat zone pay from gross income taxation
A962 - Makes General Fund supplemental appropriation of $350,000 to DMVA for Council on Armed Forces and Veterans' Affairs for preservation of military installations in case of base realignment and closure
A1798 - Expands eligibility for veterans' civil service preference; creates additional preference benefits
A2199 - Establishes veterans' preference for affordable housing in certain housing projects
A2944 - Establishes the "Veterans Court Pilot Program," in two vicinages including Burlington County
A4066 - Establishes annual grant program to recognize public institutions of higher education that offer comprehensive array of veteran programs and services
A5116 – Provides gross income tax credit to certain totally and permanently disabled veterans for rent constituting property taxes.