Bill Signed to Make it Easier for Residents to Pay Former $52 EMS Tax

HARRISBURG – Gov. Edward G. Rendell Friday made it much easier for Pennsylvanians to pay an annual, $52 tax supporting local services by signing into law Senate Bill 218.

The measure also renames the levy as the local services tax; it previously was known as the emergency and municipal services tax.

Before today, employers deducted the full $52 from an employee’s paycheck in one installment. Under the new law, the tax will be paid, beginning next year, when the employee is paid – and only $1 per week. Those who earn less than $12,000 a year will not have to pay the tax.

“This legislation will benefit every Pennsylvania taxpayer, and especially those who earn less than $12,000 annually,” Rendell said. “Workers living on a tight budget cannot afford to pay the tax all at once. Breaking it down to no more than $1 a week means the pinch is erased but local governments will still get the revenue they need to build roads, reduce property taxes or support emergency services.”

Rendell vetoed a similar bill last year, Senate Bill 157, due to concerns about how that bill would have impacted local governments. Under the vetoed measure, implementing the change would have had to happen in a short period of time and municipalities would have lost revenue that they already had budgeted to spend.

When he vetoed SB 157, the Governor did so with the support of the Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities, the Pennsylvania Association of Township Supervisors and the Pennsylvania Association of Boroughs. Cities and towns also voiced their support for the veto of that bill.

“While I am signing into law this new and improved version of the bill, I recognize that some local governments still have concerns about processing the up-front exemption for individuals earning less than $12,000 a year,” Rendell added. “The Department of Community and Economic Development will work with local government associations and businesses to develop a uniform procedure for filing and processing exemption certificates, which will benefit everyone involved.”

The new law also changes the name of the tax from the emergency and municipal services tax to the local services tax. The purpose of the change, Governor Rendell said, is to help emergency medical service providers who saw a significant drop in voluntary donations after the tax first was enacted.

“When this tax was known as the ‘EMS’ tax, many people wrongly assumed that they no longer needed to voluntarily support local emergency medical services – and this confusion created a financial hardship for many EMS departments,” the governor said. “Changing the name of this tax to clarify that it is for all local services should end any confusion, and I hope Pennsylvanians will generously support local EMS providers.”

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