Tax credit for volunteer emergency responders advanced

Senators gave first-round approval March 23 to a proposal to give tax credits to volunteer emergency responders.

LB886, introduced by Sen. Al Davis of Hyannis, would create a $250 refundable tax credit for volunteer emergency responders, rescue squad members and firefighters who meet certain criteria. The bill would establish a point system to determine annual qualifications for the credit.

The bill is estimated to reduce tax revenue by $2.2 million in fiscal year 2017-18 and again in FY2018-19.

Davis said volunteers play a critical role in providing emergency services in much of the state, particularly in rural areas. Without volunteers, he said, local governments would need to raise property taxes to pay for professional emergency services.

Davis said the tax credit would help compensate volunteers for the amount of time and money they spend training and responding to calls and provide an incentive to new volunteers.

“This is just a minimum recognition of all the good [volunteers] do for our citizens,” he said.

Sen. Dan Watermeier of Syracuse supported the bill, saying that volunteer emergency responders cover 75 percent of the state’s geographic area and provide services to 55 percent of Nebraska’s population. He said the proposal should be part of a larger discussion on whether the state or local governments should be responsible for providing emergency medical services.

Senators voted 34-0 to advance the bill to select file.

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