JOHNSTON – Gov. Terry Branstad donned his old military uniform Monday to lead a Memorial Day ceremony at Camp Dodge highlighted by his signing a bill designed to support veterans already living in Iowa and to attract soldiers leaving the military to move here for financial and employment incentives.
Branstad said he believes the effort will work to match veterans with quality, high-paying careers in Iowa.
“Our bipartisan Home Base Iowa plan will work to match veterans with high-paying careers in Iowa,” the governor said. “These men and women have fought for our country, and acquired unique skillsets and training in the military.
“Now, with the Home Base Iowa plan signed into law, Iowa stands ready to welcome them to our communities and match them with the quality jobs across the state,” he added.
Senate File 303 exempts military veterans’ federal retirement benefits from state income taxes and allows private employers to give veterans preferential treatment in hiring, among other changes. The tax exemption – part of Branstad’s “Home Base” initiative – is estimated to total $2.4 million in fiscal 2014 and grow to $9.4 million by fiscal 2018.
Other provisions fully exempt military survivor benefits from state income tax; directs Iowa’s occupational licensing boards to adopt rules allowing credit for military training and experience in the licensing process; allows private sector employers to grant a preference in hiring and promoting veterans; eliminates the special plate issuance fees charged for plates associated with military service; expands eligibility for the Military Homeownership Assistance Program, which provides $5,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance; requires community colleges and universities to file reports on the amount of credits they are giving veterans for their service in the military; and makes it easier for soldiers to earn academic credit for their military training and experience if they decide to seek a degree at an Iowa college or university.
Also Monday during a ceremony at the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum on Camp Dodge, Branstad signed Senate File 2352, a measure which extends a homestead tax credit for disabled veterans.
Former Iowa Congressman Leonard Boswell, who served as co-chair of the Home Base Iowa initiative with fellow Vietnam veteran Casey’s CEO Bob Myers, called Monday’s action “very historic and very significant.”
“I’m very pleased about it,” he said. “At last Iowa is right up on the forward edge of making veterans welcome and has proved it by this action.”
Meyers called the initiative a major effort that makes significant changes to Iowa law and makes Iowa a “veterans-friendly state” at a time when more soldiers will be entering the civilian workforce due to a reduction in overseas combat assignments and federal cuts in the military budget.
“This will be no doubt instrumental in attracting people that are originally from Iowa back to their home state and others that might be looking around the country for someplace to locate,” he said.
Branstad said he hopes to raise up to $6 million from private sources to help finance the effort to link soldiers with jobs in Iowa.
For more information on Home Base Iowa, please visit www.HomeBaseIowa.org