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By BETH ZUMWALT
The Illinois legislature recognized the need and the shortage of volunteer fight fighters last week.
Included in the Illinois 2023 state budget was Senate Bill 2253. The bill allows a $500 Illinois income tax credit for volunteer emergency workers who volunteer for at least 9 months of the calendar year and serve as a member of a fire department, of a fire protection district, municipality, or other unit of government, and receive no more than $10,000 per year for their service.
The purpose of SB 2253 is to incentivize more people to volunteer for volunteer fire departments.
Although the Winchester Fire Department is operating a full roster, Fred Andrews, fire chief, said he didn’t know if the bill would have a big impact on his department or not although the tax break for the existing members was appreciated.
“We are allowed 20 members on our roster and that’s what we have,” he said.
Jill Tracy, Illinois State Senator from neighboring counties, introduced a similar bill last session, but the bill never made it out of committee.
Tracy introduced a similar bill last session that included a $1,000 tax deduction, but the bill never made it out of committee.
Tracy said the opposition to the bill was the amount of lost revenue by the state, but said incentivizing the volunteers was worth the cost.
The Department of Revenue estimates that the tax credit would cost the State between $11 and $13 million per year. The Illinois Firefighters Association indicates that there are approximately 20,000 to 25,000 volunteer firefighters across the State of Illinois, making their estimate similar, between $10 million and $12.5 million per year.
New York, Iowa and Maryland all offer tax incentives to their volunteers.
Bluffs Fire Chief Alex Barnett was unavailable for comment.