Amendments would have ensured that a percentage of state contracts were awarded to veterans

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. David Knezek (D–Dearborn Heights), an Iraq War veteran who served two tours of duty as a scout sniper platoon member in the United States Marine Corps, introduced six amendments on the Senate floor today to guarantee that a percentage of government work contracts would be awarded to veteran-owned businesses.

“Our government spends billions of dollars to train our service members to tackle some of the world’s most pressing conflicts, yet our state does very little to help them apply these skills in the private sector when they come home,” Sen. Knezek said. “Today we had an opportunity to change that status quo, and support our veterans at home with the same vigor as we do when they’re overseas.”

Public Act 431, otherwise known as The Management and Budget Act, gives bidding preference to Michigan-based companies on government contracts for construction, goods and services. At the center of debate was a section that recommends that the state’s “goal” is to award five percent of work contracts to companies owned by veterans, but the state fails to meet that recommendation — awarding just 2 percent of its contracts to veterans. Sen. Knezek introduced amendments to strengthen that language to promise that a certain percentage of those work contracts would be awarded to veterans.

“I even offered to hand over these amendments to any Republican Senator who wanted to take them today,” Sen. Knezek said. “I offered to give them the credit for employing our veterans, but they still refused to ensure that any percentage of our state contracts would be guaranteed to veterans – including those who were injured in the line of duty.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 31,000 of the state’s nearly 650,000 veterans are unemployed. In 2013, Michigan had the second-highest veteran unemployment rate in the U.S., with a rate of 10.6 percent, a full four percentage points above the national average for veterans. Michigan’s unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans at 13.5 percent is more than 4 percent higher than the national rate.

“I’m frustrated that the same senators who voted against employing veterans today are the same people who run to take pictures with veterans when election time rolls around,” Sen. Knezek said. “Michigan had a unique opportunity to support our men and women in uniform, but, instead, Michigan Republicans chose to ignore them all.”