Assemblyman Chris Tague (R,C,I,Ref-Schoharie), alongside Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb, Sen. James L. Seward (R,C,I,Ref-Oneonta), and several of his peers in the Assembly Minority Conference, introduced legislation this afternoon that would give a full state income tax exemption to volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel (A7655).
Tague is introducing this bill to address the massive labor pool issues facing volunteer firehouses and emergency medical services. Being 100% reliant on volunteers, many institutions are being forced to shut their doors and be folded into other companies, such as the recent ambulance service closing status from state income tax, which would increase recruitment rates and retention rates of volunteers. This action, instead of establishing full-paid services, would save the state over $3.8 billion annually.
I am very proud to introduce this legislation; our volunteer firefighters and EMS sacrifice so much for us, Tague said. They miss birthdays, holidays, family dinners, football games, dance recitals, and thousands more that the rest of us take for granted, all so that when we dial 911 someone will be there for us. Theyve paid their due hundreds of times over and its time we gave back to them. Fire houses are closing; ambulance companies are being folded into larger county-spanning units to cover labor gaps. Giving these volunteers tax free status from state income taxes can help shore up the volunteerism that is the lifeblood of these institutions. We owe it to them to ease their burden as much as we can. Its a public safety issue, but its also about respect and our own peace of mind.
During my time in the state senate I have worked closely with many EMS providers, both volunteer and career, on a number of important initiatives new laws, grant opportunities, and recruitment efforts, said Senator James L. Seward. This exemption would serve as a well-deserved thank you for the men and women who give freely of themselves to keep our communities safe. The legislation would also be a powerful recruitment tool to help boost our depleted volunteer EMS rolls.
To be eligible, a volunteer must be in good standing with their respective organizations, have completed a minimum of one year of service, have fully completed all state mandated training courses, be certified by the chief emergency service coordinator of their county and have attended at least 55% of annual calls.