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Councilman Urges Wage Tax Relief For Military Vets Who Join Phila. Police or Fire Dept.

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A Philadelphia city councilman is trying to tackle two problems with one solution.

Problem number one, according to councilman-at-large Ed Neilson, is that both the police and fire departments are having trouble finding applicants who can get through the testing.

"Although we have a lot of applications comes in, not too many of them get through the beginning process, and they don't qualify," Neilson notes.

Problem two, he says, is the long-running problem of veterans finding jobs when they return from active duty.

"I think if we try to entice veterans to apply for these positions, we'll be able to fill them more easily," he tells KYW Newsradio.

So, Neilson has introduced a bill that would give a wage tax refund to veterans who become Philadelphia police officers, firefighters, paramedics, or prison guards.

"The intent of the bill is to bring some of the servicemen into the system and apply for the jobs where we could attract more people to the city," he said.

And Neilson says this would amount to about $5,000 saved by each jobholder over the maximum five-year eligibility span.

"I'm hoping that five thousand dollars will be enough for a new recruit to (put toward) a home here in Philadelphia," he says.

Neilson insists this approach -- a refund on the city wage tax -- does not run afoul of the uniformity clause of the state constitution, which mandates that no particular group gets a break on taxes that others do not.

Neilson's measure, which will be debated in Council committee next month, comes after City Council last week gave final approval to a bill, proposed by councilman David Oh, that expands the city tax credit that goes to local companies that hire veterans.

That bill, now awaiting the mayor's approval, does three things: it boosts the size of the tax credit from $2,000 per veteran hired to $5,000; it extends the expiration of the credit to the year 2020; and it adds reservists to those employees whose hiring would qualify for the credit.

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