AUGUSTA — Representative Vicki Doudera, D-Camden, spoke Friday before the Legislature’s Taxation Committee to introduce LD 94, “An Act To Allow Municipalities To Exempt Volunteer Firefighters from Paying Excise Tax on Their Vehicles Used To Respond to Fire Calls.”
The bill was suggested by Rockport Town Manager Bill Post, who submitted written testimony in favor of the measure, and was supported by local fire chiefs from Camden, Rockport, and Rockland.
Rep. Doudera said she was happy to sponsor the legislation because she knows firsthand how heavily many small towns rely on volunteers for emergency services, especially fire departments.
“These jobs typically entail extended and unpredictable hours, a small amount of pay — if any — and high turnover,” she commented.
The Maine Fire Chiefs Association says 92% of firefighters in Maine are volunteers, and of the 433 Maine fire departments, 338 have volunteer chiefs.
“These statistics show that a high proportion of our towns are relying on dedicated volunteers,” Rep. Doudera testified. “What the numbers do not show is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find them.”
Rep. Doudera’s bill offers one way to help with both recruitment of volunteer firefighters and retention of those already in a department.
LD 94 would allow municipalities to adopt an ordinance extending a vehicle excise tax exemption to volunteer firefighters.
Towns themselves would decide whether or not they offered this exemption, per a news release. A municipality’s ordinance would require documentation that the firefighter actively served and that the exemption applied to one vehicle used to respond to fire calls. A town could require additional eligibility criteria, such as duration of service, minimum call response and training requirements.
Rep. Doudera concluded her remarks by urging the committee to support the bill, saying that saving volunteer firefighters the amount of their vehicle excise tax was a small price to pay to help dedicated townspeople who not only gives up their time, but risk life and limb to aid their fellow citizens.
The Taxation Committee will hold a work session for the bill Thursday, April 8 at 9 a.m.