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The general topic of this message is Budget:
Firefighters Pension plan
Governor Mary Fallin
March 18, 2013
I am writing to you, as a proud, paid professional, firefighter and EMT, of almost Twenty-Five years with the Broken Arrow Fire Department. I realize that every year, all items in the budget that you deal with, have to be considered. Every year since I have been a Firefighter/EMT, in the state of Oklahoma, whether Democrats, Republicans or Independents, there has always been some level of scrutiny of my pension system, that is just part of fiscal review and accountability, I understand that.
I have chosen this job as my livelihood, my calling and my career. I am away from my family many more hours a week than someone of a nine to five and in turn have been promised by the city and state that I work in, that I will be compensated and provided a solid retirement. This has been the comfort to me and all of my co-workers, that we will do a job that we love, while we deal with the stress, emotion and sadness, of injury and death to young and old, on a constant basis, while the people representing us say that they will take care of us.
I really do not believe that the people representing us in the state government know the training and workload that our professional firefighters go through, not only to be hired but to maintain our health and qualifications and to gain further knowledge of our ever changing responsibilities. My simple proposal to you is a partial solution to funding of my pension system. Take the professional firefighters and the volunteer firefighters and deal with them separately, as I feel like the volunteers are now and have always been a drain on my pension system. To expect compensation for “volunteering” is ridiculous to begin with, if you want to be paid you are not volunteering. If there is not money to pay rural firefighters, they should combine and create funding for a regional or county response system.
Volunteers in Oklahoma are a drain because they are compensated from a system they do not contribute to and are offered tax breaks for sub-par training, not to mention the money spent by the state for the funding of that training itself. They are credited for volunteer years of service, if they actually do join a professional fire department in the state. This means more money out of the system that was never paid into it. (Time in the pension system would reflect more years than actually worked.) Most of the professional firefighters have more” actual “education, are more knowledgeable about the job and safety, are in better physical condition and actually do pay into the pension system.
My request is that you look at the pension and weed out the actual drains causing the problem with it and then do what you need to and fix it, so it will be strong. No longer look at it in its entirety, what a mess, but dissect it before you attempt to deal with or fix it. Our department is one of the first and is the best at not only running a top quality professional fire department but also run the emergency EMS ambulance and rescue in our City as well as often assisting Tulsa and other surrounding cities when their EMS (EMSA, Etc.) providers fall short of providing coverage. Twenty plus years later, I rarely go home well-rested or bored. I do love my job but physically and emotionally I have taken a beating and the one thing, besides the fantastically enormous feeling I have gotten from assisting my fellow man, was the knowledge that me and my family were going to be taken care of when I retire. I would look forward to discussing this of anything else with you in the future, maybe we will get that opportunity sometime soon. Thank you and good luck.
"Only a life lived for others, is a life worthwhile."
Broken Arrow , OK