First responders applaud tax exemption bill during Democratic Policy hearing
H.B. 2597 sponsored by Rep. Brandon Markosek, D-Allegheny
MONROEVILLE, Aug. 8 – The House Democratic Policy Committee convened a hearing in Monroeville Monday afternoon to gather stakeholder feedback on a bill that would provide a tax exemption to firefighters who purchase equipment with their own money.
The hearing was hosted by Rep. Brandon Markosek, D-Allegheny, who is also the prime sponsor of the legislation highlighted at Monday’s hearing. The second-term Democrat from Allegheny County says this bill recognizes the irreplaceable service firefighters provide while recognizing the current underfunded and understaffed fire houses.
“Many fire companies rely on the brave and invaluable work of unpaid volunteers who risk their own safety to protect the health and welfare of others. Firefighting equipment can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, and firefighters often pay for this life-saving equipment out of their own pockets,” said Markosek. “This is an important step to provide assistance to our essential first responders.”
Monday’s hearing, titled “Tax Breaks for First Responders,” was held at the Community College of Allegheny County’s Boyce Campus in Monroeville. It featured testimony from Acting State Fire Commissioner Charles McGarvey Sr. and leaders from several fire departments across Pennsylvania.
McGarvey pointed to an overbearing statistic: The number of volunteer firefighters in Pennsylvania has diminished drastically, from over 300,000 in the 1970s to less than 38,000 today. He also pointed to the dramatic underfunding of fire companies across the state.
“Funding of the fire and EMS services is in decline, and all areas of funding for the Fire and EMS services needs to be reviewed so that sufficient monies are made available, and appropriately distributed amongst all entities,” said McGarvey.
Harold Katofsky, a Deputy Chief of the Monroeville Volunteer Fire Co. No 6, is from Markosek’s district. He testified that all fire departments, paid and volunteer, need money. He says Markosek’s legislation to give volunteer firefighters a tax exemption for equipment they buy with their own money is an important step.
“Depending on the type of equipment, volunteer firefighters can spend upward of $5,000 of their own money on equipment. This legislation is simple act that would greatly help our volunteers,” said Katofsky.
House Bill 2597 was referred to the House Finance Committee shortly after its introduction in March and is awaiting further action.
“I greatly appreciate the testifiers at today’s hearing for offering their valuable input on my legislation,” said Markosek. “I’m looking forward to getting back to work in Harrisburg this Fall and working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to hopefully move this legislation forward.”
Photos from today’s hearing can be found here.
Information about this hearing and other House Democratic Policy Committee hearings can be found at pahouse.com/policy.