Mastriano bill to let victims of Norfolk Southern derailment not pay taxes on relief payments passes through Committee

05 June 2024- The state Senate today approved legislation introduced by Sens. Doug Mastriano (R-33)Elder Vogel, Jr. (R-47), and Michele Brooks (R-50) that would enable Pennsylvania victims of the Norfolk Southern train wreck near East Palestine, Ohio, last year to keep more of their own money.

“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 Committeehosted a hearing immediately following the train wreck, and subpoenaed Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw to appear before the 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.”

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. 

“Many local families and businesses continue to suffer the longstanding negative effects of this tragedy,” Vogel said. “This bill would enable the people affected by the train wreck to use more of the relief payments and settlements to pay their bills and rebuild their lives.”

The train wreck took place just across the western border of Pennsylvania and was followed two days later on Feb. 5, 2023, 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.

“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.” 

Senate Bill 1149 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.