House committees hold public hearings Tuesday on two Abbarno bills

Two House committees held public hearings at nearly the same time Tuesday on bills authored by Rep. Peter Abbarno to provide funding assistance to upgrade fire stations and to provide tax incentives to employers who hire veterans and military spouses.

The House Finance Committee took testimony on House Bill 1677. The measure would increase an existing $1,500 business and occupation tax credit up to $3,000 for veterans hired full-time on or after July 1, 2022. It would also expand that tax credit to veteran spouses, or spouses of active-duty military members. Plus, veterans would no longer have to meet the requirement of being unemployed for at least 30 days to be eligible. In addition, it would apply to seasonal employers.

Abbarno, R-Centralia, said the existing program has underperformed and many veterans organizations and employers have been unaware of it. However, he believes doubling the tax credit will help boost the program and incentivize hiring veterans and their spouses.

“Fifteen hundred dollars is not a lot of money when you think you have to provide training. But $3,000, and including the spouses of military families, is a good recognition and a good balance to try to get this program moving,” Abbarno told the committee.

“Recent surveys and reports indicate that veteran populations have higher unemployment statistics and live in poverty. In addition to veterans, there are more than 112,000 active military in the state of Washington,” added Abbarno. “There's a huge benefit to having a program like this. I think this bill will find a good balance between the expenditures with job creation and will become self-reliant as it reduces demand for government services while helping veterans and their spouses.”

The bill received unanimous support from members of the public who signed in to the hearing. There was no opposition.

As testimony was finishing on Abbarno's first measure, the House Capital Budget Committee opened a public hearing on House Bill 1929. The 20th District lawmaker's bill would establish a competitive grant program under the state Department of Commerce to award funding up to $2 million to local governments in rural counties for capital projects that would improve fire protection services.

“It was a surprise to me when a number of different fire districts in my community were unable to get the full public support to expand their fire departments. For example, in Napavine, the fire department has separate buildings in different locations for their firefighters and their equipment and vehicles. If they get called out on a fire, they have to go down the street to access their equipment before they can leave to the scene of an emergency. They need the upgrades, but in this case, the fire district lost that ability by only two votes,” said Abbarno. “It's a shame, because that community is growing faster than fire protection can keep up. This bill could help solve and fill in some of those gaps.”

Whatcom County Fire District 5 Chief Christopher Carleton from Port Roberts testified in favor of the measure, and written testimony in favor of the bill was provided by Fire Commissioner John Fanning from Ferry Okanogan Fire Protection District #14. Up to 10 others who did not testify signed up in favor of Abbarno's bill. There was no opposition.

The committees are expected to vote on the bills within a few days.


Washington State House Republican Communications