TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey residents who own cellphones have paid more than $1.3 billion in taxes toward the state’s 911 system during the past 12 years, but only a fraction of that money has been put toward its intended use.
Since 2004, only 15 percent of the money — about $211 million —has been used to pay expenses for the 911 system, according to an NJ.com (http://bit.ly/2dN3NOE ) analysis.
The state budget shows New Jersey now uses the tax to help pay for the Department of Law and Public Safety, the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs, the Office of Homeland Security, the National Guard and the general operating budget of the state police.
It’s unclear how the 911 system money is disbursed.
Records show the state spent around $42 million from 2005 to 2008 on upgrades to the 911 system. Since then, just $71,652 has been spent on it.
“There are lives that have been lost because of this,” said Dominic Villecco, vice president for the New Jersey Wireless Association. “These funds are there to help save people’s lives.”
The upgrade, known as NextGen 911, allows residents in danger to communicate back and forth with dispatchers by text, photo and video.
Chief Technology Officer David Weinstein said NextGen 911 is a “huge priority” although he has no plan to pay for it.
From 2012 to 2014, only 10 states spent less than New Jersey on the NextGen 911 upgrade. However, just four states have fully transitioned to the new system.
“The 911 fee has paid for hundreds of millions of dollars of New Jersey public safety needs since the fee’s inception in 2004,” said Office of Information Technology spokesman Andrew Pratt. “Diverting resources to enable greater local spending would reduce funding for programs that benefit every state citizen.”
The governor’s office and Attorney General Christopher Porrino declined to comment.
Information from: NJ.com, http://www.nj.com