TRENTON – State legislators have endorsed a number of bills that attempt to make New Jersey more welcoming for veterans and military spouses, including expanded tax credits for companies that employ them.

The tax credit bills were approved by a Senate committee Monday. While those aren’t listed for votes in the full Senate at its Thursday session, the Senate is due to vote on a different bill that would make it easier for nonresident military spouses to transfer their teaching and nursing licenses to New Jersey.

Sen. Andrew Zwicker, D-Middlesex, said studies and testimony show why it’s important for the state to incentivize employers.

“Spouses of our military can be unemployed at a rate of five times higher than their spouses and those who are employed, the compensation that they’re receiving is often less,” Zwicker said.

Montgomery resident Paul Blodgett, a Navy veteran who served as an officer in the submarine force, said he and his wife, Melissa, moved six times in 10 years of marriage while he was on active duty.

Blodgett said families and spouses make sacrifices to make military service possible, but that’s often not acknowledged by state laws and policies. He said that not only do families move frequently but that they often don’t know where they will be stationed next.

“It doesn’t take too much imagination to understand the uphill battle that faces the spouse if they want to find and maintain gainful employment in their new home,” he said.

Blodgett said spouses can benefit from little to no networking in their new community, face expensive licensing and certification requirements and be unappealing job candidates to employers who know they will be relocating again within a few years.

“The playing field is very much tilted against them to find a good job,” he said.

The issue with licensing could be addressed by S1104/A2956, which revises the requirements for temporary courtesy licenses and certificates issued to nonresident military spouses by various professional and occupational licensing boards in the state.

A bill (S509/A3136) endorsed by the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Committee would let employers claim tax credits for hiring nonmilitary spouses equal to up to 15% of their wages if they work between 120 hours to 400 hours in a year or 25% if they work 400 hours or more. The credit would be capped at $2,400 a year per worker.

“This bill will make lives for our military spouses, who really should be treated like honored guests in our state, a little bit easier,” Blodgett said.

A separate bill (S282/A2529) would do something similar for veterans, equal to 10% of their wages and capped at $1,200 a year per veteran. For an employer to qualify, 25% of their new employees must be veterans. It would be retroactive to 2020 but expire at the end of 2023.

Ken Hagemann, adjutant and quartermaster of the New Jersey VFW, said the definition of a qualified veteran in the bill needs to be expanded beyond someone who served on active duty to also include National Guard and reserve members.

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The Senate is also scheduled to vote Thursday on a bill simplifying the process for fully disabled veterans to renew parking privileges through the Motor Vehicle Commission and a resolution urging the Delaware River Port Authority to create a toll discount program for military veterans.

On Monday, the Assembly approved five veteran-related bills, including ones making $2.5 million in federal funds available to support veteran-owned businesses and allowing Shore towns to provide the spouse and dependent children of veterans free or reduced-cost access to beaches.

Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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