Later today, fire chiefs from across the D.C. region will gather to support ambulance user fees in Maryland's Montgomery County.
Voters in Montgomery County will decide at the polls next month whether the fees will be implemented. Montgomery County is the lone jurisdiction in the area that does not charge the fees. County Fire Chief Richard Bowers says county residents would not even be charged them.
"It's not a bill. It's not a tax, or it's not a fee to any county resident. It is revenue that is already paid for by the insurance companies. Generally in everyone's premium that they have already paid for," Bowers says.
Volunteer firefighters in Montgomery have fought the fees at every turn, and were successful in getting the measure on the ballot before voters. They believe people will be less likely to call 9-1-1 for an ambulance because they might have to pay for riding in one.
If voters reject the fees, County Executive Isiah Leggett has proposed $14 million in budget cuts that include layoffs of firefighters. Opponents say Leggett's proposal is political and designed to scare voters into voting for the fees.