Volunteer firefighters ought to get benefits

Published 3:36 pm Saturday, April 6, 2013

Column: Capitol Comments, by Shannon Savick

We are back from break and working hard to get our budget bills moving through the House. A couple of weeks ago we released our budget targets that show that our priorities are on job creation, education and property tax reduction. But I also wanted to touch briefly on two other important issues.

My bill to provide a $500 tax credit for volunteer first responders has passed through the Public Safety Committee, and I’m thrilled to say it had bipartisan support. We know that volunteer firefighters, emergency medical technicians and other first responders do the incredibly difficult job of keeping us safe in all of our communities.

Shannon Savick

Shannon Savick

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The trouble is that hard work comes with little to no benefits. This bill would help those first responders in Minnesota by giving them a financial benefit each year. Representatives from the firefighter and EMT groups testified in favor of the bill, and they said these tax credits can go a long way toward helping local chiefs recruit new volunteers. I’ll keep you updated as this bill moves to the House floor.

Another key issue that has come up recently revolves around the Departmtent of Health and Human Services funding. When our budget targets came out, they showed that there would be $150 million in cuts to the $11 billion budget for HHS.

I was one of several representatives who was immediately concerned that our nursing home, long-term care and human services workers might see a pay freeze or another pay cut. But we have heard from the committee chairs in these areas, and from our House leadership, that they are likely to find a way to provide a pay increase of some kind and find efficiencies in order to make those spending reductions.

I will continue to fight for Health and Human Service workers at the Capitol, and I will do everything I can to ensure we see the hard earned raises that they deserve.

Lastly, I do want to comment on the Jobs and Economic Development omnibus bill that will be coming out of the Jobs Committee I sit on. It will help put Minnesotans back to work by providing incentives for businesses and training for workers across the state.

Included in the $46 million increase in jobs and economic development funding will be $20 million toward the Minnesota Investment Fund, which provides grants and loans to businesses that set up shop and create jobs in our communities. It’s a proven jobs creator and the funding comes from a bill I authored earlier this session.

Having said that, I think we can do more to help rural areas in particular and I have introduced a bill to reinstate a JOBZ program. It would be another tool in the toolbox for rural communities to add living wage jobs and improve their local economy. That bill will be sent to the Taxes Committee, and I’ll continue to push for it to be added to their overall tax package.

I encourage you to contact me with any comments or questions you might have. As we move toward the end of session and get our budget bills put together, I will continue to fight for our district. I’m confident that we will see a lot of positives from our work this session.

Shannon Savick, DFL-Wells, is the state representative for House District 27A.