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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Testa: Put The Emergency $$$$ Where It Belongs!

New Jersey State Senator Michael Testa pressed Governor Phil Murphy on his strategy to improve 9-1-1 emergency services after the governor stated in his Budget Address that he would ensure money is in place to modernize New Jersey’s emergency response infrastructure.

Sen. Michael Testa pressed Gov. Phil Murphy on his strategy to improve 9-1-1 emergency services. (Flickr)

“Our county’s and town’s emergency services are on the front lines protecting the public, ensuring our families have access to quick, quality life-saving care,” said Testa (R-1). “The state gets a 90 cents surcharge on every telephone bill that is to be used to maintain emergency services, but in typical New Jersey fashion, most of the fees collected are spent elsewhere.

“I look forward to working with the Governor and my legislative colleagues to fully fund our local 9-1-1 systems and will continue advocating for a constitutional amendment to require 9-1-1 funds to be spent as intended,” Testa added.

Currently, New Jersey collects close to $124 million annually in fees from landline and cellular telephone customers. Those fees are placed in the “9-1-1 System and Emergency Response Trust Fund Account.” Yet, since 2006, the State has diverted nearly 90 percent of the collected fees – more than $1.4 billion – from the fund.

“Because of the fund diversions by the State, our counties aren’t getting the support they need,” added Testa. “That means these necessary expenses have been and continue to be shifted to property taxpayers, adding to a burden that is already overwhelming.”

In January, Testa introduced a pair of resolutions that aim to halt the diversion of 9-1-1 funds from their intended purposes. SCR-48 urges the governor and Legislature to fully fund New Jersey’s 9-1-1 systems. SCR-49 is a constitutional amendment that would prohibit money in the “9-1-1 System and Emergency Response Trust Fund Account” from being used for any purpose other than those established under current law.

In his Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Address, Governor Murphy said, “…we will ensure that millions more remain at-the-ready to build the modern, next generation, 9-1-1 emergency services infrastructure our communities need.”

“While Gov. Murphy failed to prioritize proper 9-1-1 funding in his first two budgets, I am pleased to see his new commitment to fund our local emergency services,” said Testa. “I look forward to reviewing his plan and encourage him to work on a bipartisan basis to ensure all New Jersey residents have access to reliable and immediate services during a crisis."

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