The state Senate voted (50-9) recently to pass, and return to the House for concurrence, a measure (HB 377) granting a state income tax credit for active volunteer firefighters and volunteer ambulance personnel - a proposal first introduced by Senate Democratic Whip Michael A. O'Pake (D-Berks) nearly five years ago.Senator O'Pake said he was "ecstatic" that this long-overdue emergency service volunteer recruitment and retention incentive appeared on the verge of final enactment.

The legislation would provide for a $100 state income tax credit for active, fire, EMS and rescue company volunteers effective with the current 2008 tax year.

"24/7, 365 days a year, on a moment's notice, when just about any and every imaginable emergency occurs in communities across this Commonwealth, our volunteers answer the call for help by their neighbors in need," O'Pake said in floor remarks prior to the legislation's Senate passage.

"It's long past time that we answered their call for help," he added, noting that the tax credit is aimed at stemming a decades-old decline in the ranks of Pennsylvania's volunteer fire and other emergency services first responders.

"Our volunteers not only deserve our thanks; they deserve a tax break," Senator O'Pake said, pointing to the fact that similar retention and recruitment tax credits are aleady in place in Pennsylvania's neighboring states of New York and Maryland.

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