Freshman legislator proposes tax credit for veterans to spur their hiring

Anna Wills

Rep. Anna Wills, R-Apple Valley, speaks at a Capitol press conference announcing legislation to create tax credits for businesses hiring veterans. Standing to the right of Wills is Sen. Chuck Wiger, DFL-Maplewood, whose carrying the legislation in the Senate. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter

Rep. Anna Wills called her legislation a good first step.

A freshman Republican from Apple Valley, Wills is proposing a tax credit to spur the hiring of military veterans.

Minnesota veterans endure an unemployment rate of 23 percent, Wills said.

This double-digit rate is starkly contrasted by the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in December showing the general unemployment at 5.5 percent.

Indeed, the state’s unemployment rate for veterans is one of the highest in the nation, Wills said.

“We’re excited to have broad, bipartisan support,” she said of her bill.

Wills lauded the proposal as a “win-win” for Minnesota.

She is teaming up with Sen. Chuck Wiger, DFL-Maplewood, in her tax credit proposal.

“Totally unacceptable,” Wiger said of the unemployment rate among veterans.

Although the lawmakers do not have an overall cost of their proposal, they envision the state offering a $3,000 tax credit for a business hiring a disabled veteran, a $1500 tax credit for hiring an unemployed veteran, and a $500 tax credit for hiring a veteran.

The taxes generated by getting the 30,000 unemployed veterans back to work, Wills believes, would cover the cost of the tax credit program.

Wills and Wiger view their proposal as another tool in veterans employment.

Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, who appeared at the Capitol press conference, spoke of many ripples coming off seemingly small pebbles.

Dennis Davis, chief translation officer for Metafrazo, a firm focusing on veteran hiring practices, theorizes the lack of a sizable active duty military presence in the state contributes to the high unemployment rate.

“They don’t understand the culture,” he said of potential employers.

Wills’ legislation is supported by veterans advocacy groups, including the Military Action Group, the United Veterans Legislative Council, the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, and the Association of the United States Army.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed a number of veterans’ initiatives in his proposed state budget.

He is proposing to expand the Minnesota G.I. Bill by a $1 million and slated another $1 million for county veteran service office grants.

Dayton is proposing $400,000 in ongoing funding for the honor guard program that assists at veterans’ funerals, and $200,000 in permanent funding for the Gold Star Program to assist the family of veterans killed in action.

He is also including $425,000 for a new state veterans cemetery in Fillmore County, and $5 million for information technology upgrades at the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs.

This should help ensure high-quality health care is delivered for state veterans, according to the administration.

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