Tenney Works To Ensure 9-1-1 Call Centers Are Funded

June 20, 2011
Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney (R,C,I-New Hartford) has been working with local officials and her colleagues in the State Legislature to ensure that 9-1-1 call centers are properly funded. While current state law imposes a tax to fund call centers, this fund has continuously been raided into the state’s General Fund for other purposes.

“Ensuring the safety of New Yorkers is one of the most important priorities of any elected official. However, year after year in Albany, taxpayer money meant to fund 9-1-1 call centers has been ‘swiped’ to balance the state’s finances in other areas,” said the assemblywoman. “It is irresponsible for this to have happened in the first place, and I am very pleased to have a coalition of bipartisan legislators joining me to correct this wrong.”

In 1991, the state first enacted a 70-cent surcharge on cell phone bills intended to help fund 9-1-1 call centers and ensure faster response in emergency situations across the state. This tax was increased to $1.20 per cell phone in 2002; yet, in the same year, former comptroller H. Carl McCall conducted an audit of the state police and found that this fund was being spent on miscellaneous charges – and not being given to local governments to fund their emergency call centers as intended.

Although the legislature took action to correct this, the enacted law failed to require the state to divert the funding to local governments, thus allowing the state to “swipe” the money into the General Fund to be used for any purpose. In fact, last year, out of the $190 million generated by this surcharge just $9.3 million was passed along to local governments by the state. As a result, many local governments have raised, or have considered raising, sales and/or property taxes to continue funding their 9-1-1 call centers.

Correcting this issue was among the first actions taken by Assemblywoman Tenney once she was sworn into office this past January. Throughout this legislative session she has been meeting with local officials, legislative colleagues and calling on the governor to restore state law to require this money to be used for its intended purpose – and to protect taxpayers from any further hikes in local sales or property taxes.

Assemblywoman Tenney said, “In order to resolve this issue as soon as possible, I worked together with my colleagues to build a consensus and draft bipartisan legislation. The resulting bill, A.8489/S.5509-A, which I am proud to be a sponsor of, has now been introduced and, because we now have a bipartisan group of lawmakers in both houses in support, this legislation has a much stronger chance of passing before next year’s state budget season – ensuring not only public safety and government accountability, but also helping to avoid any greater burden on taxpayers.”