Ragan Report

Legislature approves incentives to attract skilled veterans

Over the next five years, the U.S. Armed Services will downsize our military forces by 350,000. These Americans have skills that make them valuable to Iowa businesses and communities. Attracting former service members to our state will bring workers who can help grow our economy and expand our middle class.

To encourage more veterans to make Iowa their home, the Legislature approved the Home Base Iowa Act (Senate File 303). The centerpiece of the bill makes military retirement pay exempt from state individual income taxes. Those who are eligible for the tax exemption have given 20 or more years of military service to our country.

Iowa currently exempts the first $6,000 (single) and $12,000 (married) of a veteran's qualified retirement income from state taxes. To qualify, the taxpayer must be at least 55 or disabled. Twenty-six other states already exempt all military retirement pay. By joining them, we are cutting taxes for at least 7,765 Iowa veterans.

Other benefits to veterans in SF 303 include:

* Allowing private employers to grant a preference in hiring and promotion to veterans, and to the spouses of disabled veterans or service members who died because of active duty.

* Providing a clear pathway to jobs by matching military occupational training to Iowa's professional and occupational licensure requirements.

* Encouraging Iowa's colleges and universities to grant educational credits to veterans for military education, training and experience.

* Expanding eligibility and financing options for the Military Home Ownership Assistance Program.

* Providing special license plates for military service to veterans and service members free of charge.

* Clarifying that war veteran properties, such as Veterans of Foreign Wars halls, will not lose their tax-exempt status if they rent their facilities for $250 or less and proceeds are used for the purposes of the veterans' organization.

* Studying the feasibility of expedited licensing, certification or registration of military spouses if they have an occupational or professional license from another state.

To contact Senator Ragan during the week, call the Senate Switchboard at 515-281-3371. Otherwise she can be reached at home at 641-424-0874. E-mail her at amanda.ragan@legis.iowa.gov.

 

Senator Ragan is an Assistant Senate Majority Leader, chair of the Human Resources Committee and vice-chair of the Health & Human Services Budget Subcommittee. She also serves on the Appropriations, Natural Resources & Environment, Rules & Administration and Veterans Affairs committees.