New tax for fire stations advances in legislature

Fire fighters prevailed at the Asamblea Legislativa Monday when lawmakers passed on first reading a tax that will be used to build 32 more fire stations over the next 10 years. The measure needs one more vote, probably Thursday, before it goes to President Laura Chinchilla.

The measure assesses a 1.75 percent tax on electricity bills, but homes that consume less than 100 kilowatts per month are exempt. The idea is to insulate the poorest citizens from the impact of the tax. A.M. Costa Rica outlined the tax a week ago.

The Cuerpo de Bomberos, the fire fighters, anticipated the vote Monday and said that off-duty members would show up again in front of the legislative chambers. They did with much wailing of sirens through the late afternoon. A similar gathering was held last week to promote the tax. The fire fighting agency was quick to point out in an email that those who showed up to promote the law were off-duty and that emergencies would be handled normally.

The measure is important to some expats who live in areas distant from fire stations and complained about the lack of response.

This problem is seen in Guanacaste and the Osa and Nicoya peninsulas. Among the proposed fire stations are ones at Uvita, Cóbano, Puerto Jiménez, Monteverde, Nandayure and Tamarindo.

A statement from fire fighters said that residents in communities like Los Chiles, Puerto Jiménez or Bribrí might have to wait two hours for a response because the nearest fire station is 100 kilometers (62 miles) away.

The Cuerpo de Bomberos now has 66 stations and officials hope to have 98 by 2020.

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