Pa. Senate OKs Bill to Give Tax Exemption to Derailment Victims

HARRISBURG, Pa. – The state Senate on Tuesday approved legislation that would enable Pennsylvania victims of the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, to keep more of their own money.

Senate Bill 1149 would exempt from the state income tax any disaster relief payments the families or local businesses receive from the state or federal government, Norfolk Southern or an insurer as the result of the Feb. 3, 2023, train wreck. The deduction would also be retroactive to any payments received by victims in 2023. 

The bill was introduced by state Sens. Michele Brooks, R-50th, Doug Mastriano, R-33rd, and Elder Vogel Jr., R-47th.

“I would rather see these families and businesses keep their relief and settlement payments than see part of it taken by the state through the income tax,” Brooks said. “Many of these businesses are struggling and families are suffering long-term medical conditions, and they need all the financial resources they’re receiving. This tax change would have a relatively small effect on the state’s finances but can mean a lot for these families in the aftermath of this tragedy.” 

The derailment was followed two days later by the planned ignition and burning of five railroad cars carrying dangerous chemicals. The toxic plume resulted in residents reporting various medical problems including rashes, burning lips, sore throats, itchy eyes and other skin irritations. Residents reported additional medical concerns at a follow-up hearing held last month by the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.

“This bill would enable the families and businesses harmed by the Norfolk Southern train wreck to keep more of the money from their relief payments and settlements,” said Mastriano, who serves as chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee. “Rather than creating a new government program, this bill would exempt from the state income tax the money these families and businesses are already receiving. I want them to be able to use that money for medical bills and personal expenses rather than paying the state income tax.”

SB 1149 now heads to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for consideration.

Pictured at top: This photo taken with a drone on Feb. 4, 2023, shows portions of a Norfolk Southern freight train that derailed Feb. 3 in East Palestine, Ohio. (AP Photo | Gene J. Puskar, File)

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.