A bill that would provide business and occupation (B&O) tax credits to businesses that hire veterans has been introduced in the Washington State House of Representatives, and was scheduled for a public hearing, Jan. 27, 2015, in the House Committee on Community Development and Housing and Tribal Affairs. House Bill 1241 is prime-sponsored by Rep. Dick Muri, R-Steilacoom, and has nine co-sponsors.
“I think everyone can agree that it’s a good thing to promote hiring our veterans,” said Muri, a 22-year Air Force veteran. “This bill goes beyond just paying lip service to veterans – it offers real incentives.”
House Bill 1241 seeks to reduce the number of unemployed veterans by 30 percent over the next eight years. If that is achieved, the legislation’s July 1, 2023 expiration date may be extended, according to the language of the bill.
“This bill would not only help stimulate our local economy by encouraging job creation, but it will also provide transitional opportunities for the men and women that have served our country so nobly,” said Rep. Graham Hunt, R-Orting, a co-sponsor of the bill and a 10-year combat veteran.
The veterans’ unemployment rate in Washington state is 7.3 percent, which is higher than the national average of 6.6 percent.
“I am proud to support this bill and stand with our veterans,” said Rep. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup, a co-sponsor of the legislation and Second Lieutenant in the Washington Air National Guard. “Unemployment among veterans is a critical issue in our region. This bill helps address veteran unemployment while providing businesses with the flexibility they need to fill these jobs. I look forward to working with my colleagues in order to get this bill passed on to the governor.”
Several military bases in Washington state are in the midst of drawdowns, which have thrust thousands of veterans into unemployment.
“America’s military is shrinking by as many as 80,000 [servicemembers], said Tony Belot, Director of Communications at RallyPoint/6, an organization that serves as a resource center for transitioning service members. “Washington state will see 8,500 – 9,500 veterans leave bases like Joint Base Lewis-McChord annually while our economy is still recovering. This critical challenge is being faced by many nonprofit and veteran service organizations in the community, and requires long-term focus. RP/6 fully supports, and strongly urges the passing of a B&O tax credit for companies hiring veterans.”
The legislation states that each tax credit a business earns would equal 20 percent of wages and benefits paid up to a maximum of $1,500 for each qualified employee.
“Legislation like HB 1241 makes the job of our exceptional Veteran Transition Specialists in Auburn a little easier,” said Nathan Smith, Chief Operating Officer of Hire Heroes USA. “Not every employer knows the value of a veteran – but one thing every employer does know is the value of $1,500 returned to the balance sheet. If this bill incents the hiring of even one unemployed veteran whose talent and drive might otherwise go untapped, then HB 1241 is good for business, good for unemployed veterans, and great for the state of Washington.”
Similar bills were introduced during the 2013 and 2014 legislative sessions, but none got to the governor’s desk.
Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County, is sponsoring a companion bill, Senate Bill 5042.
“We know that veterans face significant challenges transitioning out of military service, and finding a job should not be one of them,” O’Ban said. “I am proud to have authored this legislation that incentivizes hiring our nation’s heroes. Though they possess excellent skills and superb work ethic, veteran unemployment rates continue to be higher than the rest of the labor force. This bill is an important step to change that trend.”
James M. Collins, retired Army Major General and small business owner, is also a strong supporter of the legislation. “This bill may well be the incentive that small businesses need to hire a former military service member,” said Collins. “Small businesses generate more than 60 percent of new private-sector jobs in the U.S. economy. HB 1241 would make hiring of veterans more affordable and, therefore, more likely to happen.”
To ensure long-term employment for veterans, House Bill 1241 requires employees to be employed for at least two consecutive full calendar quarters for the business that hired them to receive any B&O tax credits.
“Our veterans have sacrificed and paid a high price so that our nation is secure and our citizens are free. This is a small, but important step that would provide an additional incentive to employers to hire veterans and help our veterans to secure gainful employment,” said Rep. Dave Hayes, R-Camano Island, who serves on the Joint Committee on Veterans’ and Military Affairs and is a U.S. Navy veteran.
If passed in both chambers and signed by Gov. Inslee, House Bill 1241 would become law on Oct. 1, 2016.
The 2015 legislative session is scheduled to adjourn April 26.