Becoming America’s #1 State for Veterans
By Governor Pete Ricketts
February 9, 2021
Governor’s official photo here.
Nebraska is on the path to becoming the best state in the nation for military personnel and veterans. We’ve been instituting new policies that benefit military families and veterans and that connect them with leadership opportunities in the workforce. We want to encourage the veterans who live here now to stay in Nebraska and contribute their skills to grow our state. We also want to invite others to relocate or retire here.
One of our biggest areas of focus over the past couple of years has been giving our military families access to more job opportunities. For example, we expanded the hiring preference for the State of Nebraska to include spouses of service members. We revised regulations to allow military spouses to receive a three-year teaching permit in Nebraska with a valid out-of-state license. We also entered into the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact, which allows nurses to have one multi-state license. This makes it easier for military spouses to begin work in nursing after moving to our state. This year, I’m working with Senators Rita Sanders and Carol Blood of Bellevue on LB 389 to remove barriers that impede military spouses from being certified to teach in Nebraska.
We’re investing in the health and wellbeing of our veterans. The State has received grant funding from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (USVA) to design and construct an expansion at the Eastern Nebraska Veterans’ Home (EVNH) in Bellevue. To be eligible for the USVA grant funding, the State was required to match 35% of the project’s cost. I included those funds in my 2019 budget, which the Legislature approved. The federal funds are allowing EVNH to add a net total of 24 private assisted-living beds along with space for a brand new Adult Day Health Care program. These additions will help us better serve and directly care for our state’s veterans and their families.
Last year, I worked with the Legislature to pass veterans tax relief. At my request, Senator Tom Brewer of Gordon introduced LB 153 to exempt 50% of military retirement income from state income taxation. The bill passed without a single vote of opposition, which signifies the great support for veterans here in Nebraska. I signed LB 153 into law in August.
Our work is making a difference. When I testified to the Legislature in support of veterans tax relief early in 2019, all of the states around us were adding military retirees while Nebraska was losing them. The latest report from the Department of Defense (DOD) shows that Nebraska’s military veteran retiree population has slightly increased. In November 2020, SmartAsset ranked Nebraska the #7 best state for veterans. That’s good evidence that we’re on the right track.
We’ve already taken several steps toward our goal of being the best state for veterans, and we’re just getting started. This year, we have an opportunity to finish the work we began on veterans tax relief in 2020. On January 29th, I testified in front of the Legislature’s Revenue Committee in support of LB 387, which would exempt 100% of military retirement income from state income taxation.
Across the nation, 30 states don’t tax military pensions—either because they don’t have personal income tax or they have special exemptions for veterans and military personnel. This includes five of our six neighbors: Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota, and Wyoming. I’m supporting this same tax relief for the nearly 14,000 Nebraskans receiving military retirement benefits, including National Guard and Reserve retirees. We want to be the most appealing place for these civic-minded leaders to reside after retirement.
LB 387 is a priority bill to help build our workforce. Those who have served a full military career and retire in Nebraska add immense value to our businesses and nonprofits. Since many military personnel can retire after twenty years of service, they often finish their military service in their 40s or 50s. At this age, they’re actively looking to invest their wealth of skills in a second career or as a committed volunteer.
Military servicemen and women are accustomed to moving frequently, as often as every couple of years. The Department of Defense reports that military families move 10 times more often than civilian families. By the time they complete their military career, the men and women in the military have typically lived in several different communities. They can choose from among these locations when deciding where to retire. Given their mobility, we need to pursue additional strategies to retain them once they’re finished with their careers.
In addition to building our workforce, having a culture that’s friendly to veterans and military personnel is attractive to decision-makers. For instance, Nebraska is still pursuing U.S. Space Command headquarters. As part of its initial decision on where to locate the command, DOD evaluated how Nebraska compares to other states as a home for military families. When our state is considered for major projects like this, we want to be able to have the strongest resume possible.
If you have questions about Nebraska’s work to support veterans, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 402-471-2244. This year, the Unicameral has the opportunity to take the next step in delivering tax relief for our veterans who have sacrificed so much. Please encourage your State Senator to stand up for our veterans by supporting LB 387. You can find their contact information at www.nebraskalegislature.gov.