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Ambulance Fee Appears Headed for Defeat

County Executive Isiah Leggett's proposed ambulance fee does not have enough votes to pass the County Council, vice president Phil Andrews said this afternoon.

Andrews said that he and four of his colleagues on the nine member council would not vote for the bill - which is before the Public Safety Committee tomorrow - in its current form.

Montgomery is one of the only jurisdictions in the Washington region that does not already charge for ambulance transport. Leggett has said that the measure is designed to charge health insurance companies - not residents.

But the county's well-organized volunteer firefighter organization has waged an aggressive public relations campaign against the fee. Opponents fear the charge would discourage residents from calling 911, and council members have received hundreds of phone calls, including from the politically-active senior community of Leisure World.

Yesterday, the volunteer firefighter organization's leaders said they would seek to put the measure to a referendum if it passes the Council.

Andrews confirmed this afternoon that council members Roger Berliner, Duchy Trachtenberg, Don Praisner and Valerie Ervin are opposed to the measure. There is talk around the council building in Rockville that a committee member will probably move to table the bill in committee tomorrow, putting it on hold indefinitely.

"People are very uncomfortable still with what this bill means for the average Montgomery County citizen," Ervin said. "Until we get some assurances that people really aren't going to be billed, we're still uncomfortable."

Leggett's spokesman Patrick Lacefield wasn't immediately available for comment today, but he said yesterday that Leggett's team has "made the case and we've answered all the questions."

Lacefield said Leggett has made clear that he doesn't want to raise taxes again to close a projected budget shortfall, and that the fee is necessary to "meet all the needs of fire and rescue."

By Ann Marimow  |  October 22, 2008; 4:27 PM ET
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Leggett campaigned hard for Praisner and Trachtenberg to get elected. Now he needs their support and they aren't giving it to him.

Posted by: with friends like these | October 23, 2008 8:19 AM | Report abuse

We don't need an ambulance tax. Nor deo we need the 15% to 205 property tax increase county elected officials are oplanning to give us next year on top of the 14% increase we got this year. Vote FOR B! Save Our Homes!

Look at the stock market. County elected officials are throwing homeowners under the bus.

Posted by: Robin Ficker Broker Robin Realty | October 23, 2008 11:39 AM | Report abuse

How many people in Montgomery County realize that MoCo will still provide FREE ambulance service to all of Ward 3 and parts of Ward 4 in the District of Columbia. That's right!!! While the taxpayers of MoCo will be charged an ambulance fee, LoCo Leggett will continue to give the richest residents in DC a free ride courtesy of MoCo taxpayers. When are the citizens of MoCo going to wise up and stop electing democrats?

Posted by: CitizenPayne | October 23, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Ask yourself---would Senator Obama be in favor of an ambulance tax? Would he be in favor of a 14% property tax increase this year and an even larger one of 15% to 20% next year? I think not. Vote FOR B! Save Our Homes!

Posted by: Robin Ficker Broker Robin Realty | October 23, 2008 2:30 PM | Report abuse

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