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Veterans Day gift from Senate: tax credit for hiring those who served

The Senate yesterday unanimously approved a measure that offers businesses a variety of tax credits for hiring unemployed veterans.

"This bill will make it easier for businesses to hire veterans and help make veterans more competitive in the job market," Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement following the 95-0 vote.

Tax breaks for hiring veterans was part of Obama's overall jobs proposal. The president's overall measure quickly stalled on Capitol Hill, but Senators pulled the veterans' hiring section, dubbed the Vow to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, to consider separately.

This latest jobs bill version incorporates a previous Baucus' proposal, the Hiring Heroes Act, which he co-sponsored along with his fellow Montanan and Democrat Sen. Jon Tester. The official amendment agreed to yesterday was sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)

New tax breaks: The bill will provide a $5,600 tax credit to businesses that hire long-term unemployed veterans, a $2,400 tax credit for hiring short-term unemployed veterans and credits up to $9,600 for hiring unemployed veterans with service-related disabilities.

The measure also should help make veterans more marketable to civilian employers by requiring that the military, Veterans Affairs and Department of Labor work together to expand job training resources and make it easier for military certifications to apply in the civilian job market.

To pay for the veterans' programs, a fee charged to former service personnel for a home mortgage program that was due to expire on Nov. 18 will be extended for five years.

Symbolically targeted timing: Congressional legislative and political goals were to get the veterans' hiring tax credits into law by Veterans Day. Lawmakers came close.

The original bill, H.R. 674, was approved by the House on Oct. 27. In its first incarnation, the bill was designed to repeal the requirement that federal and state governments withhold 3 percent of all payments to government contractors. That rule, which has not been implemented yet, was designed to make sure that Uncle Sam is getting all due tax from firms with which it does business.

The Senate agreed with the withholding measure, but also added veterans' employment tax credits to the bill, so the measure now must go back to the other side of the Hill for reconsideration.

House Republican leaders have scheduled a vote for next week under a procedure that requires a two-thirds majority for passage. That is expected to be easily reached since the bill is a rare bipartisan agreement between House Republican and Senate Democrat leaders.

Remember those who served: While Congress might look like it's grandstanding a bit, OK grandstanding a lot, when it comes to this holiday, veterans deserve to be honored not just on Veterans Day but every day.

The holiday's origin is the ending of World War I. Major hostilities from that war  formally ceased at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice.

On this Veterans Day, and every day, please take time to remember those in uniform and say thanks personally when you can.

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