GOP bill would exempt volunteer firefighters from state income tax

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Republican Assembly members representing Oneida County are joining their caucus in backing a bill in the New York Legislature that would exempt qualifying volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers from the state income tax as a recruitment incentive.

Assemblyman John Salka, R-121st Dist. of Brookfield, and Assemblyman Brian Miller, R-101st Dist. of New Hartford, joined other Assembly Republicans in announcing support for the bill on Monday.

To earn the credit, a firefighter or ambulance staff member would have to have been with a volunteer organization one year, completed required training and be certified by the chief emergency service coordinator of his or her county, and have attended at least 55 percent of the organization’s activities. It would take effect Jan. 1. The bill was introduced last week by Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-102nd Dsit. of Schoharie County, and referred to the chamber’s Ways and Means Committee. A similar bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. James Seward, R-5st Dist. of Oneonta and is before the Budget and Revenue Committee.

Backers estimate the cost to the state would be negligible but would avoid having to spend $3.8 billion a year if the fire and ambulance services were paid for, according to Salka.

“I wholeheartedly support giving back to our volunteer firefighters and EMS,” Salka said. “They sacrifice so much so we can have the peace of mind that when we dial 911 someone will be there to assist us. This tax exemption is a perfect way to give back to them for their efforts and ensure that these institutions continue into the future.”

Miller said it’s a public safety issue. “The money volunteer firefighters would save are funds they are already spending on training and other costs associated with serving, so this is a commonsense way to help more people sign up,” Miller said.

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