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Abbarno wants Legislature to renew and expand tax incentive program for businesses that hire veterans

The Chronicle - 11/2/2023

Nov. 1—State Rep. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia, is again calling on the Legislature to renew a now-expired tax credit for businesses that hire veterans. He also wants to expand the program to include businesses that hire family members of veterans.

The program, which expired July 1, offered employers a $1,500 credit on either the public utility tax (PUT) or business and occupation (B&O) tax if the veteran remained employed for at least two consecutive full-calendar quarters.

Proposed by Abbarno, House Bill 1005 would double the credit to $3,000, expand eligibility to spouses of active soldiers and veterans, and extend the program for a decade until July 1, 2033.

The bill would also end a requirement that the veteran be unemployed for at least 30 days prior to their hire.

"Helping veterans and local businesses should have been a top priority during the 2023 session," Abbarno said in a statement Monday. "Veterans and their families have already given so much to our community — this policy helps them with financial security and helps businesses fill much-needed positions with highly qualified individuals."

While the tax credit was available for seven years, a fiscal note attached to HB 1005 shows it was seldom used. According to the Department of Revenue, "less than 50 businesses who employ military and veteran spouses" claimed the $1,500 credit annually. Washington has an estimated 39,000 military spouses and 300,000 veteran spouses, according to the fiscal note.

The fiscal note estimates the expanded program would cost the state $148,000 in revenue yearly if passed. The credits would be available on a first-come, first-served basis, up to $500,000 per year.

While making a pitch to his fellow lawmakers during a House Finance Committee hearing on Feb. 2, Abbaro said the low utilization was partly due to a lack of promotion.

"I don't think the program was promoted as much as it could have been," Abbarno said Feb. 2, while also noting the benefit of hiring veterans, particularly at small businesses.

At the hearing, Abbarno also spoke on the fiscal note, which says the program would cost the department roughly $30,000 to $50,000 per year to implement.

"The fiscal note itself, to me, is a relatively minor fiscal note, for the major economic impact it's going to have on a lot of communities," Abbarno said, referencing the estimated cost. "My hope is that it's actually more because I do believe when we hire veterans, members of the military, and military spouses, there's going to be a major economic impact that's going to offset that."

The proposal failed to advance this year, though when the Legislature reconvenes on Jan. 8, Abbarno said he wants lawmakers to once again take up the issue.

"In the upcoming session, we should bring this effort to the forefront and do the right thing for our veterans and military families," Abbarno said in the statement. "This is not a partisan issue and should not be treated as such. We have so many talented and experienced military families and small businesses that can benefit from the incentives in this program. Active military, reservists, veterans and their families should be recognized for their sacrifices made, both domestic and abroad."

His call came just before National Veterans and Military Families Month, which takes place each November. Veterans Day is Saturday, Nov. 11.

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