The New Jersey state government is currently under fire for diverting close to $2 billion since 2004 that were intended to go towards improvements to the state’s 911 call centers. Representative Leonard Lance has introduced bipartisan legislation to put an end to this practice, and is working closely with one of the FCC’s Federal Communications Commissioner, Mike O’Rielly, to find a solution to the problem.
Commissioner O’Rielly recently wrote an op-ed for the Hill, proposing to have the states under the regulatory umbrella of the FCC so that this kind of gross misappropriation of funds no longer occurs nationwide. In 2017, there were a total of 12 states and territories identified by the FCC that had issues with 911 fee diversions. Of those 12 states, 7 of them have said they do not intend on making changes, New Jersey included. These ‘diverter’ states then become ineligible for the NG911, an existing federal program that provides states with grants to upgrade their “next generation 911.” By choosing to explicitly divert these specific funds, and subsequently being disqualified from receiving the NG911, New Jersey is putting its own citizens at risk by not having the funds to periodically upgrade their 911 centers. Furthermore, lawmakers have not been transparent about where all the extra money is going, saying they are simply “balancing the budget.”
Congressman Leonard Lance (R-NJ) introduced the 9-1-1 Fee Integrity Act (H.R. 6424), alongside Congressman Chris Collins (R-NY) on July 18, 2018 to empower the FCC to issue rules to prevent states from diverting 9-1-1 taxes, fees, and charges. The bill will work through the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Chairman Greg Walden (OR-2) sent a letter to the FCC recently asking for an update on 9-1-1 diversion nationwide.
Diverting tax dollars away from the advertised purpose and then asking for federal dollars to fill the short fall is serious malpractice. New Jersey citizens should be outraged.