(TRENTON) – Legislation drafted by Senator Donald Norcross and Assemblyman Angel Fuentes and Gilbert “Whip” Wilson (D-Camden/Gloucester) that would allow local governments to implement a public contract set-aside program for businesses that are owned by or that employ veterans is headed to the governor’s desk for approval. “New Jersey’s veterans have given this country years of their lives in dedicated service,” said Senator Norcross. “They deserve every advantage we can provide them. This bill gives counties and municipalities the resources to support their veterans in a way that is beneficial to everyone.” Current law allows local governments to designate up to 3% of local contracts to small businesses, as well as those owned by women and minorities. The veteran set-aside bill opens that provision to businesses owned by or that employ veterans. “Allowing local governments to establish a veteran set-aside within the existing program just makes sense,” Assemblyman Fuentes said. “We should do everything we can to help our veterans, whether they’re business-owners or seeking employment.” To qualify, a business must be at least 51% controlled or owned by a veteran, or must employ veterans to complete the contract. In authorizing the program, the governing body of a county or municipality would have to establish a goal for its contracting agencies of setting aside a certain percentage of the dollar value of total procurements to be awarded as set-aside contracts to qualified veteran business enterprises. “The veteran set-aside bill is one more tool in the fight against New Jersey’s high veteran unemployment rate,” Assemblyman Wilson added. “The men and women who fought for this country should not have to fight for jobs when they return.” Veteran John Scurti, owner of Jessco Construction in Glassboro and strong supporter of the bill, expressed that he was pleased to see New Jersey taking these steps to bolster veteran business-owners in this way. “Every bit helps veteran business owners, especially with the men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who are coming home to a very difficult economic climate,” said Scurti. “What is truly unique about this bill is that it provides for a local government contract set-aside. Small business owners don’t often have the resources necessary to complete contracts at the state and federal level, but local contracts are much more accessible.” The bill was passed by the Assembly on Monday and today by the Senate with bipartisan support and will now go to the Governor’s desk.