Butler County lawmaker wants tax credits for volunteer first responders

State Rep. Candice Keller, R-Middletown, has introduced a bill that would provide an annual refundable tax credit to volunteer firefighters, EMS personnel and peace officers.

House Bill 143 is waiting a House committee assignment. This is the second time Keller introduced this bill, including last year.

“Those who volunteer to be on the front line of protecting life and property for free are truly our everyday heroes,” said Keller. “These brave men and women have made a tremendous decision to give back to their communities by putting their lives on the line. (House Bill) 143 is just a small token of what they deserve.”

The tax credit is designed with a three-tiered system, and volunteers receive a rebate based on their years of service.

During the first five years of service, volunteer firefighters, EMS personnel and peace officers would receive $500 a year. In years six to 10, they’d receive $1,000. Those who are serving 11 or more years would receive $2,000 a year.

Keller introduced the bill as House Bill 575 with now former Republican Rep. Jeff Rezabek. It received three hearings int he Ways and Means Committee, but never received a vote out of committee.

Ohio State Firefighters Association President Christopher Peterson testified on May 22, 2018, before the committee supporting the bill, saying the tax credit will “give support back to a firefighter that serves their community.”

“Volunteer firefighters will sometimes give back to their community with little to no compensation. Some volunteers will even use personal funds and time to pay for training,” he said.

When Keller testified before the committee, she said last May these volunteer men and women take time off from their families or jobs to received these training and “receive the exact same training as career firefighters with the same number of hours.”

“Then after all these expenses of time and money, it has become difficult to keep volunteers,” she testified on May 15, 2018.

The Ohio Department of Public Safety reports a decrease of more than 1,700 volunteers since 2013, and according to Keller’s 2018 testimony, that leaves many departments “in a bind.”

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