TRENTON — New Jersey lawmakers voted Monday to advance legislation to aid veterans looking for work and to give some disabled veterans a long-awaited increase in their state benefits.
Members of the Assembly Military and Veterans Affairs Committee approved both measures by 5-0 votes during a morning hearing.
The employment legislation, known as the "Battlefield to Boardroom Act," would give businesses an up to $1,200 corporate income tax or gross income tax credit for every veteran they hire between Jan. 1 this year and Jan. 1, 2021.
To qualify, 25 percent of the businesses' new hires must be eligible veterans during the first tax year the credit is claimed. In subsequent years, at least 50 percent of any new hires must be veterans.
The legislation, which is sponsored by Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-7th of Palmyra, is intended to provide an incentive for businesses to hire jobless or underemployed veterans.
About 4.9 percent of veterans in New Jersey were jobless in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nationwide, 4.7 percent of veterans are unemployed, including 5 percent of those who served during the last 16 years.
"Post-9/11 veterans, who have historically higher unemployment rates than the national average and veterans overall, are in desperate need of assistance in finding employment. Furthermore, those who find employment are oftentimes underemployed," Singleton said Monday. "The Battlefield to Boardrooms Act will use New Jersey's tax code to stimulate employment opportunities, by providing an economic incentive for the hiring of those men and women who have given so much to protect and safeguard our American way of life."
The legislation was originally penned by Sen. James Beach, D-6th of Voorhees, in 2010. Singleton took up the measure in the Assembly in 2012.
Monday's Military and Veterans Affairs Committee vote marked the first time the legislation was advanced out of a committee.
"It's a win-win situation for both our veterans and businesses," Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker, D-28th of Newark, said before the vote.
The committee also released legislation seeking to double state allowances for veterans who became blind, paraplegic or hemiplegic as a result of wartime service from $750 a year to $1,500.
The benefit for paraplegic and hemiplegic vets has remained unchanged since 1981 and the benefit for blind vets since 1971.
The projected cost of the increase was not available, as an updated fiscal note from the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services has not been released. A previous report by the office in 2014, when the legislation called for boosting the allowance to $1,200, estimated it would cost the state about $265,000 for the 221 veterans who receive the allowance.
In addition to the those two bills, the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee voted to release a bill that would make any veteran who lives in New Jersey or active-duty service member, regardless of residency, eligible for free admission to state parks and beaches.
Current law already provides free admission to state residents who are active members of the National Guard, totally disabled, or age 62 or older.
To become law, the three bills must be approved by the Assembly and Senate and be signed by the governor.