As volunteer firefighter numbers dwindle, PA lawmakers suggest tax credit


By Andrew Staub | PA Independent

Pennsylvania municipalities with a shortage of volunteer firefighters could eventually have a new recruiting tool.

Tax breaks.

RECRUITMENT DRIVE: Two Pennsylvania state senators want local municipalities to start offering tax credits to attract volunteer firefighters and EMTs after ranks have plummeted over 30 years.

Two state lawmakers have introduced legislation that would allow municipalities to waive local earned income taxes for volunteer first responders — including those at nonprofit EMS agencies — whose ranks have plummeted from 300,000 to 50,000 over three decades.

Growing the numbers of volunteers could stave off another, more expensive solution, according to a news release from the bill sponsors, state Sens. Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne, and Sean Wiley, D-Erie.

“If every local government in Pennsylvania had to convert to a paid firefighting force, it would cost an estimated $6 billion,” Baker said in a statement. “Giving firefighters a small break on their local taxes is a simple benefit that will compensate them in some small measure for their priceless life-saving work.”

The idea emerged from a joint hearing about firefighter and EMT retention and recruitment held last year.

The lawmakers anticipate the bill will be part of an incentive package to bolster the number of volunteer firefighters and EMTs, as everything from the emergence of two-income families to local leadership conflicts has contributed to the decline of volunteer ranks.

Municipalities would not be required to offer the tax credit if the bill becomes law, but would have the power to set the value of the tax credit and guidelines, such as the number of calls to which a volunteer must answer and required training.

Andrew Staub is a reporter for PA Independent and can be reached at Follow @PAIndependent on Twitter for more.