Army-veteran lawmaker slams state agencies for failing vet-owned businesses, calls for consequential changes

Army-veteran lawmaker slams state agencies for failing vet-owned businesses, calls for consequential changes

Brian Bergen

TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblyman Brian Bergen, a former Apache fighter pilot during Operation Iraqi Freedom, says a report released Monday showing New Jersey failed to award disabled veteran-owned businesses statutorily required state contracts demands an immediate response and swift corrective action.

“New Jersey state agencies are mandated to do business with veterans turned entrepreneurs, but they have not lived up to their so-called commitment. It is completely unacceptable and I’m calling on state leaders to join me in making consequential changes,” Bergen (R-Morris) said. “For the past seven years, veteran-owned businesses have lost out on millions because of empty promises and failed policies.”

According to the report released by the Garden State Initiative and New Jersey State Veterans Chamber of Commerce, 97% of state agencies that have procurement power are not enforcing a 2015 law that requires 3% of their budgets to be set aside for contracts with businesses owned by disabled veterans. No state agency is following the legal reporting requirements.

“According to news reports, Gov. Phil Murphy has deflected comment on the matter to the Treasury Department. A better response would have been to say he is creating a task force to ensure New Jersey is meeting its legal requirements and improving procurement rates for veteran businesses,” Bergen said. “I am urging the governor to support this initiative.”

There are 255 certified disabled-veteran businesses in New Jersey and nearly 60,000 veteran-owned. State contracts can be worth as much as $1 million.

“I am also calling on Speaker Craig Coughlin to work with Senate President Nick Scutari to establish a joint legislative subcommittee to foster economic development for veteran-owned businesses,” Bergen said. “I want to make New Jersey the best state for veterans to start a business after they complete their service to our country. Whether it is through legislation or leadership, I will work with my veteran communities and colleagues to make sure state government is working for those who selflessly fought for our freedom.”