OH Tim Schaffer 2-5-2020

Ohio state Sen. Tim Schaffer speaks during a committee hearing Feb. 5, 2020.

State lawmakers are considering a plan to create an income tax credit for law enforcement officers who buy safety gear out of their own pocket for use on the job.

Senate Bill 190 would create a state tax credit up to $500 per year for officers who purchase equipment, including uniforms, flashlights, body armor and handcuffs, for use in the line of duty. It would not apply to items for which officers are reimbursed by their departments.

The credit would reduce revenue to the state’s General Revenue Fund (GRF) by an estimated $5.3 million to $8 million per year, according to a Legislative Service Commission (LSC) review of the proposal. The reduction would, in turn, lower transfers by between $180,000 and $271,000 from the GRF to the Local Government Fund (LGF) and the Public Library Fund (PLF), the review concluded.

“Many agencies across the state don’t have the tax base and funding that we do,” Westerville Police Chief Charles Chandler told members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “Fortunately, … the majority of metro area officers receive a good amount of equipment and a uniform allowance yearly.

“However, having worked outside the metro area, I can testify that many of our brothers and sisters in rural areas and economically distressed areas of the state do not have that luxury,” Chandler added. “There are many small agencies across Ohio that cannot afford ballistic vests, recording equipment or even firearms and uniforms. Officers in these agencies may not get an initial issue and may have to provide their initial equipment at their own expense.”

The Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio, the Ohio Township Association, the Ohio Municipal League and the Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association have come out in favor of the legislation.

Under the proposal, sponsored by Sen. Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, if the credit is higher than the tax amount due on an officer’s annual tax return, the difference is not refunded. The tax credit would apply to the approximately 33,350 officers in the Buckeye State, including police officers, sheriff’s deputies and state troopers.

In written testimony to the committee, Lancaster Police Chief Adam Pillar said most of the patrol rifles his officers carry while on patrol are privately purchased and owned. Officers routinely spend more than $1,000 on these firearms, Pillar told lawmakers in his testimony.

“The passage of this bill will have a far reaching effect,” Pillar wrote. “It will get needed equipment to smaller and rural officers making the citizens they serve safer.”