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Ambulance Fees Considered Again In Montgomery County

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County officials are citing the 'doomsday budget' as the latest reason why ambulance fees are necessary in Montgomery County.
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County officials are citing the 'doomsday budget' as the latest reason why ambulance fees are necessary in Montgomery County.

Two years ago, voters in Montgomery County overwhelmingly rejected ambulance user fees. Even so, voters could be facing the same question again very soon.

On Tuesday, a bill is set to be introduced in the county council that would institute the fees, charged by all other jurisdictions in the D.C. region, at the behest of county executive Isiah Leggett, who says there's one reason to bring the issue back up so quickly: "We've had a game-changer in Annapolis."

Leggett says the possible "Doomsday budget" or measures that need to pass to avert it in a special session of the General Assembly — namely the shifting of teacher pension payments — will cost the county millions.

"I think it would have been irresponsible of me not to go back and say to citizens, 'You didn't have this two years ago. And are you willing to confirm that decision knowing what you know now,'" says Leggett.

Before the voters can ever decide, the county council must first approve the fees, which it did two years ago by a 5-4 vote. Two of the "yes" votes came from members no longer on council, and their replacements have yet to voice their opinions. Current council president Roger Berliner voted "no" two years ago, and says he will again.

"I don't see a fundamental difference that would, in my judgment, justify overturning the will of the people on the exact same legislation two years later," says Berliner.

Opponents of the fees, led by volunteer firefighters, have already vowed to push for another referendum should the council pass the measure.

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