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Oklahoma's Volunteer Firefighters Could Be Out A Tax Credit

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Governor Brad Henry wants to put a moratorium on more than a dozen tax credits this year, including one to help train volunteer firefighters. Governor Brad Henry wants to put a moratorium on more than a dozen tax credits this year, including one to help train volunteer firefighters.
"I'm not really in it for the money, of course, but it doesn't hurt at all. It sure is a nice benefactor to the job," said Trent Morris, a volunteer firefighter. "I'm not really in it for the money, of course, but it doesn't hurt at all. It sure is a nice benefactor to the job," said Trent Morris, a volunteer firefighter.
"I don't think they're going to complain if it gets taken away. It's nice to have, but you're doing the job for free," said Capt. Richard Stammer, Limestone Fire Department. "I don't think they're going to complain if it gets taken away. It's nice to have, but you're doing the job for free," said Capt. Richard Stammer, Limestone Fire Department.
"It gives them incentive to sharpen their skills, to make them better firefighters, better medics, so they can help you," said Chief Charlie Pearson, Rock Fire Department. "It gives them incentive to sharpen their skills, to make them better firefighters, better medics, so they can help you," said Chief Charlie Pearson, Rock Fire Department.

By Jeffrey Smith, The News On 6

ROGERS COUNTY -- Governor Brad Henry wants to put a moratorium on more than a dozen tax credits this year, including one to help train volunteer firefighters. He says in these tough economic times, it's a move that will save the state $45 million.

But some volunteers say getting rid of the credit could devastate rural Oklahoma.

When he's not fighting a fire, Trent Morris is just as capable in scrubbing down fire trucks in Rogers County. For his service to Limestone Fire, Morris gets a $400 tax credit.

"I'm not really in it for the money, of course, but it doesn't hurt at all. It sure is a nice benefactor to the job," said Morris.

The state is considering getting rid of that credit to save money. Richard Stammer started out as a volunteer, now it's a full time job.

"I don't think they're going to complain if it gets taken away. It's nice to have, but you're doing the job for free," said Capt. Richard Stammer, Limestone Fire Department.

But some volunteers say even though the tax credit is small, it means a lot because it's all they get for their service and their sacrifice.

"It gives them incentive to sharpen their skills, to make them better firefighters, better medics, so they can help you," said Chief Charlie Pearson, Rock Fire Department.

The Rock Fire Department serves about 30 square miles in rural Osage County. All firefighters, including the Chief, are volunteers. It takes 30 hours of training to get the full tax credit and many volunteers are proud to have earned it. Pearson says if it's canceled, some will fall behind on training and others will quit.

"The training hours they put in, it comes out of their pocket. They have to burn their fuel to go to these classes, they have to give up their time, their effort, they have to leave their jobs to come and do this training," said Pearson.

Pearson says axing this credit is the wrong way to save money.

On Wednesday, the legislature will debate a House Bill that will expand the tax credit, even as the Governor's office plans to push for a moratorium by early spring.

 

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