Kentucky lawmaker proposes tax credit for volunteer firefighters
LEDBETTER, KY —
Fire chiefs across the state say it’s becoming harder to find and keep volunteer firefighters. An eastern Kentucky lawmaker is trying to help solve that problem with proposed legislation that would create a $1,000 tax credit for volunteer firefighters.
Karen Heisner feels safe eating lunch with her husband knowing there’s a fire station nearby, but she says learning about the constant need for volunteers is concerning.
"If you don’t have enough people who volunteer to be firefighters, you don’t have anyone to answer the calls," Heisner said.
Ledbetter Fire Department Chief Terry Stringer says it can be tough maintaining a good roster of firefighters.
"Things have changed so much, and even, today we demand more from volunteer firefighters," Stringer said.
He says the training it takes now is more time consuming, with 150 hours of training to become certified and training throughout the year to maintain those skills.
Stringer has 30 names on his roster, but he says that doesn’t mean 30 guys are going to be at the station every day.
"So many volunteers have daytime jobs. They go to work out of the county and out to their jobs," Stringer said.
Middlesboro Rep. Rick Nelson plans to introduce a bill that would qualify all active volunteer firefighters for a $1,000 tax incentive.
"(It’s an) incentive to encourage people to volunteer, and it’s a reward for a job well done," Stringer said.
He hopes the proposed bill will help solve the issues many fire departments face.
Nelson pre-filed the bill on Thursday. It will be introduced in the 2017 General Assembly. Right now, Nelson estimates it will take about $17 million out of the state general fund.
If the bill passed, only active firefighters would be qualified for the tax credit. Those are fully certified firefighters.