Pennsylvania Senator Lisa Baker (R- Luzerne) said she is seeking help for fire companies struggling to get volunteers. She discussed this with the Wayne County Commissioners, Tuesday.


 Pennsylvania Senator Lisa Baker (R- Luzerne) said she is seeking help for fire companies struggling to get volunteers. She discussed this with the Wayne County Commissioners, Tuesday.
Three pieces of pending legislation are aimed at helping fire companies. They would, 1. provide a tax credit for a firefighter’s employer; 2. provide an educational tax credit for the volunteer firefighter and 3. provide a personal tax credit for the fire company volunteer. Baker said these bills need to be pushed through the Senate.
She and Senator Mike Waugh (R-York) are working on the tax credits. Detailed on her web site (senatorbaker.com), the proposed credits involve:
• A $500 tax credit for active members of volunteer fire fighting and emergency medical services organizations, as certified by the State Fire Commissioner or the Director of the Emergency Medical Services Office in the Department of Health.
  • A tuition reimbursement credit of 50 percent of tuition for each course credit.  The credit would be paid directly to the college or university.
  • A $1,000 tax credit against an employer's personal income tax for each volunteer fire and emergency services member employed.  The credit would not exceed $5,000 per employer during a specific tax year.
Baker chairs the Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee and Waugh is co-chair of the Fire and Emergency Services Caucus. In 2004, a commission was established to make recommendations for improving the delivery of emergency services in Pennsylvania.  She said that to date, only four of the 23 targeted areas have been addressed. 
Commissioner Chairman Brian Smith, who has been stressing good communications, said this was a good example to have the Senator keep the Board advised. He said it was a priority to keep our fire company volunteers.
Senator Baker said that at one time Pennsylvania had 300,000 emergency volunteers and that is down to about 80,000. “Without fire department volunteers Pennsylvania’s costs would skyrocket,” she said. Volunteers face a significant commitment in expenses, time and training, and she said they hope that burden can be lessened. She was also hopeful there is good bipartisan support for the effort.
Smith added that the public also needs to do all they can to support their emergency volunteers at their spaghetti suppers and other fundraisers.