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County Council Approves Ambulance Fee

The measure was overturned by referendum in 2010 and brought back up by County Executive Isiah Leggett this session.

Despite voters striking down the Montgomery County ambulance fee , Montgomery County Council passed the fee again Tuesday with a 6-3 vote. Several councilmembers said there was a misinformation campaign surrounding the 2010 referendum vote.

Councilmembers Councilman Phil Andrews (D, Dist-3), Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) and George Leventhal (D-At Large) were opposed.

While Andrews implored councilmembers to respect the will of the voters, some of the county lawmakers were disturbed at how voters were educated about the ambulance fee.

Many residents who voted against the fee thought county residents would have to pay the $300 to $800 fee per ambulance ride, Councilman Mark Elrich (D-At Large) said.

“That’s a blatant lie,” Elrich said. “Residents won’t pay.”

Only the insurance companies of non-residents using ambulance services would have to pay, according to the legislation.

In fact, the fee would put money back into the pockets of residents, Elrich said.

“County residents will pay less in taxes if the ambulance fee is put in place,” he said. Taxpayer money used to support non-resident ambulance rides would be payed for by insurance companies.

“Respect for the voters begins with what you tell the voters,” Elrich said. The disinformation campaign was not respectful to the voters.

Councilman Hans Reimer (D-At Large) agreed with Elrich.

“As a candidate in 2010 I witnessed the confusion surrounding this issue,” Reimer said.

Residents are already paying, through their insurers, for the possibility of an ambulance fee.

“That’s money left in the pocket of the insurer,” Reimer said.

An ambulance fee for non-residents is already in place in the areas surrounding Montgomery County. In Prince George’s County the ambulance fee brings in $11.5 million a year. In Fairfax County, they collected $15 million a year. And in Washington D.C., $20 million in ambulance fees were collected.

Sean R. Sedam May 16, 2012 at 12:27 AM
The Washington Post's Victor Zapana reports that the county's volunteer firefighters association will vote Thursday on whether to launch an effort to put the ambulance fee law to referendum once again: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/montgomery-county-council-approves-ambulance-fee/2012/05/15/gIQAjakwRU_story.html
Joe Thomas May 16, 2012 at 03:16 AM
Why don't the volunteers give it a rest? The entire metro area has ambulance fees and seem to get along just fine.
Ryan McDermott (Editor) May 16, 2012 at 03:32 AM
At the meeting, Councilman George Leventhal said he expected that it would go to referendum.
Stephen Kelley May 16, 2012 at 04:06 AM
"In fact, the fee would put money back into the pockets of residents, Elrich said. “County residents will pay less in taxes if the ambulance fee is put in place,” he said." Exactly who does Mr. Elrich think he is fooling? Let's see a tax cut in the same amount expected to be taken in by this ambulance fee. And before the fee is forced upon voters who have already turned it down once. The money will be spent as fast as it comes in and we'll face another tax or fee so the County Council can spend even more. When does the tax and spend policy end? When does the hypocrisy end? This Council needs to go!
Devee Schoenberg May 16, 2012 at 11:13 AM
I concur completely with Mr. Kelley's comments. That the County Executive would bring up an item that was soundly defeated by his constituents in 2010 is outrageous and totally undemocratic. County residents are already paying a fire tax and there is no need to add any additional fees for core services. Passing the measure yesterday on the grounds that incorrect information was distributed to voters in 2010 is pathetic -- who are these Council Members kidding? The voters are not stupid and come November, perhaps there should not only be a second referendum on the fees but a referendum on removing the misinformed Council Members.
Lens5417 May 16, 2012 at 11:37 AM
Ms. Schoenberg and Mr. Kelley have been accepting the self-serving disinformation spread by the volunteers. What is currently happening is that we residents of Montgomery County are paying for these services twice; once in taxes and once in insurance premiums. We are not getting back any of the money already paid to the insurance companies by way of having them pay for these services. THIS IS NOT A TAX AND SPEND ISSUE. It is a common sense issue. Why should residents of Montgomery county not claim insurance funds already paid for. Whether it reduces our taxes or increases our services, it is still to our benefit to have the funds spent in this county and not kept by the insurance companies.
Malcolm Wilson May 16, 2012 at 12:07 PM
Now that we are duly enlightened,let us vote on it again.
Jeff Hawkins May 16, 2012 at 12:21 PM
@Malcolm: Good idea.........run it by the folks again.
Stephen Kelley May 16, 2012 at 02:10 PM
" What is currently happening is that we residents of Montgomery County are paying for these services twice; once in taxes and once in insurance premiums." There's your answer, Lens5417. Why should we pay twice? Seems to me the Council can eliminate the taxes we pay for this service under the same legislation where they implement an ambulance fee. But there's no chance that will happen. This county will never reduce taxes. They keep spending and finding new ways raise money in the form of taxes and fees to continue this ridiculous spending. If Mr. Elrich really believes that this ambulance fee will reduce taxes then he should see to it that the fire services tax is eliminated. My opinion has nothing to do with our "self serving" volunteers who risk their lives on a daily basis to keep safe the citizens of this county. It does, however, have everything to do with the out of control spending that this county can't seem to stop.
Chris Kendrick May 16, 2012 at 07:02 PM
It is simply shameful that so many of our local politicians, the Montgomery County chapter of "The League of Women Voters" and others are willing to assume we, the voters, were insufficiently informed in 2010 (you know, "ignorant"), and are, therefore, unworthy of the basic Democratic ideal that a voters' referendum actually supersedes voters' elected "representation." If only to defend this fundamental principle, discarded yesterday - like a used tissue - by 2/3 of our Council, I, too, support another referendum. (Where do I sign?)
Pete May 16, 2012 at 07:55 PM
We voted and it was heard.. now the county council still wants our money... What kind of democracy is this in this county.. Now we have to go and vote again because they did not get there way... this is bullcrap...
Ray Whalen May 16, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Mr. Elrich's comment about saving money for the residents is preposterous. He must think we are idiots. We already have a "dedicated" fire tax but council plays the shell game with the general fund as they will with the ambulance fee. Also, there seems to be some people who think the insurance companies will not recover these fees. There is no free lunch. We will pay for everything one way or another.
Ray Whalen May 16, 2012 at 08:27 PM
The real issue with ambulance fees, bag fees and now the new Maryland taxes is the profligate spending of the politicians. Most of the big ticket problems are with pension funds that are unfunded and unsustainable. Many public sector employees have defined benefit programs. Almost no one in the private sector has such a plan because they are unaffordable. The pols and the special interest unions are lying to the union members when they kick the can down the road. Meanwhile they nickel and dime and tax us to death. Read the attached WSJ article about state taxes etc.to understand the effect of high taxes. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304371504577406204224582604.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_AboveLEFTTop
George Williams May 16, 2012 at 11:31 PM
We're being taxed and fee-ed to death in MoCo. Jeff is right, why are we being taxed for this service, if insurance companies are going to pay. And God help you, when your out-of-county relatives visit and need emergency medical services... they will get a bill. And as far as MoCo residents not paying... you may have to file a claim with your insurance company and if they don't pay, this could cause you problems if the bill ever goes to collection, because it has your name on it too. Why can't Leggett and 6 councilmembers respect the voters in a fair and democratic process? The votes that put them in office are not being called into question.
Jordan May 17, 2012 at 11:48 AM
Well, now we have the ambulance fee, the income tax hike, property tax hike, AND bag tax. That's some good governance you got there, County and State people.
MocoLoco May 17, 2012 at 12:16 PM
People. We cannot possibly continue to afford to have 90% of our county police officers retire on full disability for stubbed thumbs without this additional revenue source. Get with the program!
Ray Whalen May 17, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Mock Loco, the "program" we should get with is to stop the abuse of disability retiremments (if your comment is accurate) and to restruture defined benefit programs that the taxpayers don't have. Raising taxes and fees to placate union special interests is exactly the wrong program.

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