Maine senator proposes tax break for fishermen's safety gear

Posted: Thursday, May 25, 2000

A U.S. Senator from Maine has proposed a $1,500 tax break for commercial fishermen to help pay for safety gear, as well allowing them to use income averaging.

Safety items such as immersion suits and locator beacons might have saved two fishermen who drowned off Cape Neddick in January, said Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who sponsored the legislation.

''The sole survivor of the tragedy was able to correctly put on an immersion suit (that) the Coast Guard has required on cold water fishing vessels since the early '90s,'' Collins told her colleagues in Washington on Tuesday.

Collins, a Republican, said the suits and other equipment such as life rafts and emergency beacons have saved more than 200 lives since 1993.

''Commercial fishermen engage in one of the most dangerous professions in America, and have a higher fatality rate than even firefighters, police officers and truck and taxi drivers,'' Collins said on the Senate floor.

She said 396 commercial fishermen died on the job between 1994 and 1998, with 11 dying in a single month last year. The Coast Guard later convened a task force that found most fishing deaths are preventable.

Collins' bill also would allow fishermen to file their taxes using ''income averaging,'' which would let them report average income over three years.

The averaging is already available to farmers.

''This tax treatment assists individuals who must adapt to wide fluctuations in income from year to year by preventing them from being pushed into higher tax brackets in random good years,'' she said.

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