Ravell Call, Deseret News
Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake, talks during a press conference, Monday, Jan. 28, 2013. At back left is Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake.

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that would give businesses a tax credit for hiring the homeless passed the House 41-23 Monday and now goes to the Senate.

The sponsor of HB274, Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake, said the tax credit would be the first of its kind nationwide and make Utah a leader in helping those trying to get back on their feet.

“This is an experiment to some extent,” King said. “I’m excited about the idea.”

But several lawmakers raised concerns about the bill.

House Majority Whip Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said that while he agrees with the goals of the bill, he worries employers might take advantage of the homeless by keeping them only as long as the tax credit would be available.

Rep. Curt Webb, R-Logan, said he believes the bill created “winners and losers” that could hurt some job seekers. “There are only so many jobs out there,” Webb said.

King said he did not see how either the homeless or their employers would abuse the tax credit. He also disagreed that the bill gave the homeless unduly favorable treatment.

“If we were dealing with a level playing field, I would have sympathy” for that argument, King said. “But we’re dealing with a population that is stigmatized.”

The bill would provide tax credits of at least $500, depending upon the number of hours a homeless person works during consecutive six-month periods.

Lisa Riley Roche, Twitter: dnewspolitics