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EDITORIALS
May 12, 2021

            One of the questions on the ballot for Tuesday's Primary Election involves the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Companies.

            The question - Do you favor expanding the use of the indebtedness authorized under the referendum for loans to volunteer fire companies, volunteer ambulance services and volunteer rescue squads under 35 PA.C.S. Section 7378.1 (related to referendum for additional indebtedness) to include loans to municipal fire departments or companies that provide services through paid personnel and emergency medical services companies for the purpose of establishing and modernizing facilities to house apparatus equipment, ambulances and rescue vehicles, and for purchasing apparatus equipment, ambulances and rescue vehicles, protective and communications equipment and any other accessory equipment necessary for the proper performance of the duties of the fire companies and emergency medical services companies?

            The referendum does not authorize incurring any additional debt to fund the loan program; it only expands the class of eligible loan applicants.

            It is a double-edged question.  Who wouldn't want to expand a successful program that provides low-interest loans to emergency fire and medical service companies?  The other edge of the sword - is there enough money in the loan program to support unpaid volunteer services and professional tax-subsidized services, or should state legislators have addressed that in the resolution?

            The referendum will most likely pass because the large cities of Pennsylvania have paid fire and emergency medical services, and the number of voters in those cities looking to find more money from the state outnumber those in areas served by volunteer departments.  The end result will be that when the money runs out because the cities drained it, legislators will simply say "It wasn't my fault – it's what the voters wanted."

            Smaller municipalities see the need to help their paid or partially paid services because, well, the tax base just isn't there.

            But reports of the larger cities, whose budget woes are in the news regularly, along with irresponsible government spending make one think twice about giving them anything without being held accountable.

            Yes, the equipment of their fire and emergency medical services needs upgrades in order to provide effective service to the people.  But will the big-city politicians use this as another excuse to underfund those departments and continue reckless and irresponsible spending – like the recent Philly Fighting Covid scandal (ouch).

            If the resolution passes, cities that squander their own tax dollars and target their own emergency services for cutbacks to pay for the blunders (and plunder) of their elected officials will now be able to feed their incompetence off the backs of Pennsylvania's volunteers.

            So to the volunteers, we'll see you at the next boot-drive, bake-sale, bar-b-que, carnival, ticket sale, breakfast, and other fund drives.

            If the resolution passes as-is, more small communities may be forced to enact a fire-tax on their residents.

            I don't think that's what the voters wanted.

· End of article ·  


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