The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

February 22, 2013

Light blaze under Haluska bill

Would exempt firefighting gear from sales tax

— Legislation exempting volunteer firefighters from the state’s 6 percent sales tax on personally purchased protective gear might not seem like a big deal to many of us. But for our neighbors who admirably serve our wonderful fire companies, it could mean the savings of hundreds of hard-earned dollars over the course of their service to our communities.

We commend Rep. Gary Haluska, D-Patton, for introducing the bill, HB 574.

As reported by our Justin Dennis, purchases of upgraded protective gear such as a coat and pants, boots and a helmet could add up to $2,400 or more. The sales-tax exemption could mean a savings of $150-$200 depending on the equipment purchased.

Increasing problems for our volunteer fire departments have been well-documented. Sadly, most are facing severe financial difficulties, unable to keep even the most essential equipment updated, and they have struggled with declining memberships.

We long have urged our legislators and our communities to offer incentives to make volunteer firefighting more rewarding.

We’ve backed legislative ideas such as issuing life insurance policies; breaks on auto registrations, licenses and gasoline taxes; even offering credits for schooling.

Haluska, who himself has 3 1⁄2 decades as a volunteer fireman and who has served on the House Volunteer Firemen’s Caucus, knows well the problems strapping companies.

We urge the state House Finance Committee to quickly approve House Bill 574 and send it on its way to becoming state law.

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