Much at Stake for Fire Fighters in Year-End Congressional
December 20, 2012 -- With Congress working
overtime to find a solution to the so-called "Fiscal Cliff," the IAFF has been
on Capitol Hill fighting for the interests of the nation’s fire fighters.
While most attention has been focused on the high-level negotiations around tax
policy and spending cuts, the IAFF has successfully advanced a number of fire
fighter priorities while also working to assure that fire fighters are protected
in any year-end budget deal.
Among the legislation expected to pass by the end of the week is a bill allowing
more fire fighters to
run for political office, legislation extending and improving the Assistance
to Firefighters (FIRE Act) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response
(SAFER) grant programs that will make
more money available to
professional fire departments, an important expansion of the
Public Safety Officers
Benefit (PSOB) program to cover fire fighters who die from aneurysms, and
the creation of a new federal panel that will focus on fire department
compliance with health and safety standards.
The IAFF is also working on a special supplemental appropriation bill to help
communities recover from Super Storm Sandy. Traditionally, the federal
government has reimbursed local jurisdictions for costs associated with
emergency response, but there is currently an attempt to limit the amount of
funds the federal government will pay for personnel costs for fire fighters and
others. The IAFF is working with fire fighter allies on Capitol Hill to assure
that communities will get reimbursed for their emergency operations.
Dangers Lurk in Cliff Negotiations
While advancing pro-fire fighter issues, the IAFF is also playing aggressive
defense, working to protect fire fighter interests in the high-level Fiscal
Cliff negotiations. Of paramount concern are proposals to tax health benefits
and require all fire fighters to pay into Social Security. Both issues are
included in many of the deficit reduction proposals, including the
“Simpson-Bowles” plan, which is generating a lot of support from both sides of
Additionally, federal fire fighters who have already contributed millions toward
deficit reduction through a series of pay freezes and staffing cuts are again in
the crosshairs. House Republicans put forward a proposal December 19 that would
require all federal employees to contribute an additional 5 percent of their
salary toward their pension.
The holiday season has done little to cool temperatures on Capitol Hill as the
debate rages over taxes, spending and deficits. As always, the IAFF will be on
the frontlines fighting back against those who want to balance the budget on the
backs of fire fighters.