By Michelle Dupler
After 10 years serving in the Oregon National Guard, Heather Louisiana sent out 40 resumes before she landed an interview at In Home Medical in Pasco.
"After being on active duty for five to six years, I didn't have the civilian experience," said Louisiana, who is known affectionately as "Sarge" by her co-workers at the medical supply company.
She had driven trucks in the area devastated by Hurricane Katrina and in Afghanistan and Iraq, but she had to work to convince employers that she also could do office work and had the leadership and organizational skills to make her a valuable employee.
"That's a problem for veterans," Louisiana said.
Fellow veteran Jim Jewell, the owner of In Home Medical, took a chance on Louisiana and hired her as part of his own efforts to employ people who have served in the military.
It didn't hurt that he got a federal tax credit for hiring her.
But that tax credit program -- in which businesses can earn up to a $9,600 credit for each qualified veteran hired -- is set to expire at the end of this year unless Congress votes to extend it.
That brought U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., to visit Jewell's company Friday to hear about how the tax credit has helped him hire five veterans -- and will help him hire more if it's extended.
"This will really allow a small business like myself to extend opportunities to veterans earlier," Jewell said. "(Jobs) currently are a big challenge. There are a lot of these guys coming home, and they're going to need jobs."
Cantwell said the "Returning Heroes and Wounded Heroes Work Opportunity Tax Credits" already have resulted in 1,700 veterans getting jobs in Washington this year.
The bill that would extend the credits is called the Family and Business Tax Cut Certainty Act. It passed the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance by a 19-5 vote Aug. 2, and likely will be taken up by the full Senate in September.
"We hope when the legislation comes up in the full Senate that it passes so it provides predictability for businesses in the future," Cantwell said.
She noted that the tax credit can help offset the cost of a new employee, allowing businesses to hire more people.
The bill also extends a law allowing Washingtonians to deduct the state and local sales taxes they pay on their federal income tax returns. Washington has no income tax, but instead collects much of its revenue from sales and property taxes.
About 27 percent of Washingtonians deduct sales taxes paid on their federal tax returns, which translates into a tax reduction of about $1.8 billion a year for state residents, a news release said.