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A Non-Emergency Call

by on October 9, 2012

Having your tax dollars flushed is an emergency, albeit not one worthy of dialing 911. Something that happens every moment for decades will not be considered an urgent crisis by the operator even if the state is clearly acting like a felon.

Paying an extra fee to support a service doesn’t mean that the service gets supported by the fee. Only the most ingenuous taxpayers would think that the money taken from them will go where it’s been promised to be directed. For one, you’re not funding the accident response hotline just because the wording that accompanies a fee you have to pay in order to acquire a phone claims that’s where it goes:

If you’ve ever looked at your cell phone bill, you’ve probably noticed that each month you pay the state a surcharge that’s supposed to pay for maintenance and upgrades to 911 services.

But, as we all know around here, sometimes government works in funny ways.

That $1.20 surcharge isn’t even used for 911 services.

Instead, it’s swept into New York’s General Fund and used for routine expenses.

Wait: they’re not funding the service for which they’re charged? But that can’t be, unless Albany is an onerous drag on liberty that capriciously wastes what you earned as easily as sending a two-word, four-letter text. Y NOT?

Well, at least our representatives used the state-mandated cellphone price spike to fund some wastefully counterproductive garbage. You can trust the budgeting processes of the same people who can’t manage to put a user fee toward the crucial service where it’s supposed to go:

Now, legislators in Niagara County want some cell phone users to pay even more and direct the increase to it’s intended purpose.

For the past decade, the fee to the state for cell phone plans has not been going to the right place, which is 911 centers. Many lawmakers on the county legislature say as a result of this, the county’s 911 center has some resources that are limited and there’s outdated equipment.

Frittering away a fee that’s designed to fund safety upgrades would constitute an amusingly ironic example of Albany’s if not for the perilous reality it creates. The specific waste of money that doesn’t belong in the general pot resembles how the gasoline tax functions as more fuel for the incinerator instead of as a highway user maintenance fee. Albany copies Washington in their version of states’ rights.

Naturally, a wise leader has called for legislation that would mandate putting the money toward its intended cause. Just kidding: some politician wants to make you pay even more to account for someone else not properly minding what you paid previously:

To change this, lawmaker Paul Wojtaszek of the county’s 9th District, wants to impose an extra fee – 30 cents on pre-paid cell phones in the county.

Wojtaszek, the sponsor of the bill says that all counties are missing out on millions of dollars, because lawmakers have been diverting cell phone surcharge money for years to pay for things in the state’s general budget. He says 911 centers have been getting state grants, but that having funds from the cell phone fee would be much more.

How would New York function without an impossibly unwieldy budget? It’s not as if companies could train their own employees from whom they will receive value. Therefore, the state that totally creates qualified residents through its wise benevolence must dip into your phone pocket and grab any change in there so they may keep the economy purring. There’s no money left for one of the government’s sole legitimate functions, so don’t think about asking:

2 On Your Side questioned Wojtaszek if the county can find other places to pay for 911 services and not ask for more from more disadvantaged people.

Wojtaszek responded, “Yeah, for the state to give us our fair share of the 911 surcharge that they’re collecting right now.” He says “if we were going to get more from the state as the intention of that 911 surcharge was then we could probably dispense with pass our own local law.”

The inability to fund essential functions despite an endless series of massive taxes and piddling fees is always someone else’s fault. Politicians should overcome the next-highest tier wasting resources, not sock citizens even more because of it. It’s actually easier to whine for a county fee when twerps in the state capital don’t properly mind the till.

If you’re wondering where genuine concern for public safety enters the argument over whether there needs to be yet one more charge, it doesn’t. The one certainty is that another charge will never fund the proper service. Stock up on mace and Band-Aids if you have any cash left over once the fees are paid, as pleas for assistance placed to 911 may take awhile to be answered.

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