Despite a legislative session that has accomplished very little so far, the Iowa House, Senate and Governor found near unanimous agreement on one important bill. Governor Branstad signed House File 652 into law Wednesday. The bill exempts active duty military personnel serving outside the state from paying Iowa income tax.
“I’m a Vietnam era veteran and I know the sacrifice Iowa veterans and their families are making,” Governor Branstad told TheIowaRepublican.com. “I’ve been to the funerals of several veterans since I’ve taken office. Some have made the supreme sacrifice. Many are making significant sacrifices and I think this is the least that we can do as a state, to not tax them while they’re gone from the state, while they’re serving our nation and serving our state and in harm’s way.
Branstad has struggled to get the legislature to agree with many of his policies, including corporate tax cuts, ending universal preschool and a creating two year budget. However, only one legislator voted against this bill. That was House Democrat Bruce Hunter, an ultra-liberal who represents District 62 on the southside of Des Moines.
By signing HF 652 into law, Branstad fulfilled one of his campaign promises. He assembled a large, 99-county Veterans for Branstad coalition during the gubernatorial campaign and this legislation was one of the policy centerpieces of that coalition. “This is something that I felt very strongly about,” Branstad said. “It’s something that I campaigned on and I’m very pleased that the legislature has approved it and I had the honor of signing it.”
The tax exemption was welcome news for Carolyn Haugland, whose husband recently returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. “Like many other Iowa military families, we are glad that the legislature and Governor have seen fit to honor our service members by allowing them to keep all of the income they earn while putting their lives on the line for our collective freedom,” Haugland said.
Department of Veterans Affairs director Jodi Tymeson believes the new law will encourage Iowa soldiers to return to the state once their deployment ends. “This will really help keep veterans connected to Iowa,” she said. “There won’t be a reason for them to change residency to another state. We need to do everything we can to bring them back.”
Dave Rehbein of Ames is the former national commander of the American Legion. He and Tymeson were among the veterans in attendance for the bill’s signing. “I’m very, very pleased, not only that the bill got signed, but also to hear the Governor talk about the importance of keeping our military veterans in the state,” Rehbein said. This tells me the legislature knows what’s important.”
Soldiers involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Noble Eagle and Operation Enduring Eagle already received a state income tax exemption. All active duty military deployed outside will now receive the same benefit. The new law goes into effect immediately and is retroactive dating back to the beginning of 2011.
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