DES MOINES, Iowa — Gov. Terry Branstad said Iowa “has become a lot more veteran friendly” under his watch since he began his fifth term in January 2011.
Branstad told a gathering of current and former soldiers and their family members on hand Tuesday to mark the launch a “Veterans for Branstad-Reynolds” coalition as part of his re-election campaign that he was honored to sign the Home Base Iowa initiative this year designed to attract and retain veterans.
The split-control Iowa Legislature passed and Branstad signed legislation that exempts military veterans’ federal retirement benefits from state income taxes and allows private employers to give veterans preferential treatment in hiring, among other changes.
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.
Branstad said he wants to ensure provisions of Home Base Iowa program are working before making more proposals beyond those designed to support veterans already living in Iowa and to attract soldiers leaving the military to move here for financial and employment incentives.
“First we want to effectively implement the measures that we’ve already passed,” he said.
Branstad said the coalition supporting his re-election bid already includes more than 250 veterans representing all 99 counties in Iowa.
“Every veteran knows that Gov. Branstad is one of us,” said Gabe Haugland, an Iowa Army National Guard officer from Clear Lake who was deployed in Afghanistan.
Branstad, who served as a military policeman in the Army during the Vietnam War era, said he believes being a veteran is an asset going against a Democratic challenger who does not have military service in his background.