The State of New Jersey has a budget gap. So when the governor noticed millions of unused dollars allocated for firefighters in times of need, he went after the money.
NEW JERSEY – The governor of New Jersey reportedly attempted to use funds designated for firefighters and their families to fill the gap in the state’s budget.
According to a report from CBS, the emergency responders were outraged over Governor Phil Murphy’s attempt to deplete the fund. So after making national headlines and discussing the issue, Governor Murphy is changing his tune.
A number of firefighters, supporters, politicians and others spoke out veraciously against the idea.
“There is no reason and no excuse for denying firefighters support and assistance in their time of need,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney. “They put their lives at risk every day in service to others. Refusing or reducing emergency responders and their families the care they deserve in order to prop up the budget is unacceptable.”
Even a number of Democrats sided with the firefighters. Murphy said that the idea was now fully out of the question.
“We have listened to the concerns of our brothers and sisters in the firefighter community, whom I have the utmost respect and admiration for,” said Murphy. “As a result, I can say unequivocally that we are taking this budget option off the table.”
“Firefighters and first responders are increasingly being treated for PTSD and other work-related illnesses,” Sweeney said. “This fund is used as a safety net for the men and women putting their lives on the line and who often suffer the consequences.”
The governor has widely been criticized of his use of state tax funds to hand out benefits to undocumented migrants living in New Jersey while continuously taking from emergency responders and their families.
“I remain open to working with the Legislature to explore options to loosen the restrictions on the use of these funds so we can provide greater assistance for firefighters and their families,” Murphy said.
The relief fund was started in the 1880’s and provides firefighters and their families with a way to get help when times are tough.
“It seems like we’re being penalized for doing the right thing,” Carlos Mercado, of the New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolence Association, said.
“Firefighters are always there to help others and this fund is intended to help them in a time of need,” Mercado said.
.@NJGOP Chairman @DSteinhardtEsq: “New Jersey’s brave firefighters and first responders are there for us, and now we all need to come together with one loud voice and be there for them." https://t.co/kdduJUYxQz
— New Jersey GOP (@NJGOP) May 7, 2019
The money is funded by a 2% tax on fire insurance policies written by out-of-state providers. ‘State and local boards can help firefighters with as much as $16,000 to cover burial costs in the event of a death, or give assistance if a current or retired firefighter’s family suffers a financial hardship.’
“This fund has saved both volunteer and paid firefighters from losing their homes,” Mercado said. “It’s kept widows in a warm house in the winter.”
But when Governor Murphy noticed the fund’s worth had risen to nearly $250 million, he set his eyes on using it to help close the budget gap. He said the value of the fund is worth 6 times what the firefighters actually need.
“This has happened before, where other administrations have looked at this money as a quick money grab and we’re just not going to allow that,” Mercado said.
“We’re doing the right thing. Keeping the reserve, keeping the money where it needs to be,” Mercado said.
It seems as though New Jersey might want to take a closer look on how they spend their money.
Back in November of 2018, Governor Murphy allocated over $2 million to provide undocumented immigrants with legal aid to fight against deportation.
They provided another $1.6 million in February to give tuition assistance to undocumented residents.
Then they also led the charge to put driver’s licenses in the hands of those same individuals.
“The spending choices of this administration are indefensible and irresponsible,” said Assemblyman John DiMaio.