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Oppose Memo: Protect Firefighting Services

New York State AFL-CIO
16 Feb, 2023
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Part H of S4005/A3005 
Public Protection and General Government Executive Budget Bill

The New York State AFL-CIO, representing 2.5 million union members and their families, as well as our retirees and their families, oppose the above-referenced section of the executive budget proposal.

The New York State AFL-CIO is strongly opposed to this proposal which would authorize municipalities to pay volunteer firefighters in New York State. This bill would provide a “nominal fee” to volunteer firefighters, which is undefined and does not outline which volunteer firefighters would be eligible for payment. As a result, volunteer firefighters that have not completed necessary training, such as interior firefighting, would still be able to access this benefit.

This proposal is intended to improve the recruitment and retention issue of volunteers but the best way to improve fire and emergency services is to transition the volunteer services to paid fire departments staffed by professionally trained, equipped, and experienced firefighters. In fact, this proposal could have the opposite effect and could pave the way for municipalities to reduce or even eliminate their paid firefighters in lieu of paid volunteers. Some communities have already considered this short-sighted option but when it comes to public safety costs, budgetary concerns cannot be the deciding factor of such critical decisions.

The state should instead help communities have adequate fire protection service with fully staffed, trained fire departments that are available 24 hours a day and seven days a week to respond to fires and other emergency situations. This approach will ensure better safety for the public and for the firefighters themselves. There are several options to help local governments in this transition and to assist communities of different sizes, populations, and firefighting needs.

Therefore, this Federation urges this section of the executive budget proposal to be defeated.

For further information, contact the Legislative Department at 518-436-8516.