Dedicated Funds to Help Brave First Responders in Need Have to Be Protected
Today, Senator Steve Oroho and Assemblymen Parker Space and Hal Wirths (all R-Sussex, Warren, Morris) voiced their outrage about a line in the budget raiding dedicated funds towards firefighter relief programs.
Oroho, Space & Wirths expressed outrage at Governor Murphy’s raid of firefighter relief funds in his proposed State budget for next year. (SenateNJ.com)
“The Murphy administration has patted itself on the back about how they have reduced raids on dedicated funds,” said Oroho, a member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. “Funds for the firefighter relief programs have been sacrosanct whereby past administrations and legislatures have said ‘hands off;’ this administration must do the same.”
The New Jersey State Firemen’s Association receives roughly $30 million a year from a dedicated 2% tax on fire insurance premiums. Approximately half of that goes to the New Jersey Firemen’s Home in Boonton, operating expenses, the burial benefit for deceased firefighters, and the Special Relief Fund of the State Association. The other half is distributed to the Local Relief Associations for Applicant Need (relief) as well as for administrative expenses and salaries and the Annual Convention.
Assemblyman Space, himself a 30-year volunteer firefighter, has already met with Assemblyman Anthony Bucco and the leadership of the Firemen’s Home in April on these issues and sees this as opportunity for First Responders to come together to fight this proposal.
“Whether you are a volunteer or a career firefighter or their loved ones, making sure these men and women who give of themselves for their communities are taken care of in a time of need is paramount and these funds are dedicated for such purposes and shouldn’t be ransacked for progressive causes,” Space said. “Just like the ‘dedicated’ 9-1-1 funds for counties which continue to be raided to the EMS training funds money raided by Corzine a decade ago, these budget gimmicks have got to end.”
Assemblyman Wirths, a member of the Assembly Appropriations Committee and the only legislator to serve in a Governor’s cabinet, said that fiscal discipline has to be restored to the budget process to protect those who protect us.
“As Labor Commissioner, I saw firsthand how years of raiding the Unemployment Trust Fund for budgetary purposes so politicians of both parties could continue to spend without making tough decisions was bankrupting the fund,” Wirths stated. “These funds for firefighters should be protected from the yearly budget negotiations as it was intended and it is a travesty that firefighters and their families are being dragged into it.”
Senator Oroho pointed out that the “Special Task Force on Volunteer Retention and Recruitment” is being established by legislation he and Assemblyman Space sponsored last session.
“The task force is to study and make recommendations concerning the stabilization and growth of volunteer first responder community,” Oroho stated. “Parker, Hal, and I will see to it that firefighter relief funds need to be first and foremost on their list when they meet.”
The legislators said that they are exploring ideas on how to better protect those funds as well as how to make sure the funds are being spent properly and that firefighters and their families are better served by them.
“Steve, Hal, and I are meeting with the State Association soon and look forward to meeting with others including volunteer and career to make sure we have consensus as we draft legislation.”