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posted by martyb on Monday February 12, @10:04AM   Printer-friendly
from the states-needed-help-too dept.

Two members of the Federal Communications Commission want to stop states from using 911 funds to pay for other government services or equipment.

"On our individual phone bills, a line item is typically included for 911 service," FCC Commissioners Michael O'Rielly and Jessica Rosenworcel wrote in an op-ed for The Hill today. It's a relatively small fee that states and localities charge to support emergency calling services. But too many states are stealing these funds and using them for other purposes, like filling budget gaps, purchasing vehicles, or worse."

The FCC's latest annual report on 911 fees, covering calendar year 2016, said that New Mexico, Rhode Island, Illinois, New Jersey, and West Virginia "diverted" 911 funds totaling $128.9 million.

Besides those five states, "another seven didn't even bother to respond to our inquiry to examine their diversion practices," O'Rielly and Rosenworcel wrote. "None of this is acceptable."

New York is one state that did not submit a report for the FCC's data collection, "but sufficient public record information exists to support a finding that New York diverted funds for non-public safety uses," the FCC report said.

ArsTechnica


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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 12, @10:53AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 12, @10:53AM (#636628)

    It is the same with lotteries and schools. The states mismanage the money in some way or another, making sure the actual legitimate services are underfunded, then need to raise more money (debt, taxes). It is all really annoying.

    Another example is near me they tried to tax "sugary drinks", claiming it was to prevent obesity in the poor. However the tax didnt apply if you payed with food stamps. Besides obviously invalidating the fake justification for the tax, this also created a perverse incentive to trade dollars for food stamps and bulk buy juice.

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by JoeMerchant on Monday February 12, @04:39PM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday February 12, @04:39PM (#636731)

      Lottery funded schools are the biggest joke going. Of course the lottery doesn't (yet) completely fund the public school system, so even if 100% of lottery funds are indeed given to education, all that happens is that other education funding sources are diverted or reduced to compensate.

      Now, in the case of 911 fees, that should be a program that is fully funded by the user fees, and any user fees collected above the actual cost of the program should be refunded in the following year through reduced fees and/or shortfalls made up by increased fees in the following year...

      But, that's not how legislators choose to write their budgets. There's usually one "general fund" and big mushy piles of money shoveled in and out of it with vague labels and half-promises attached.

  • (Score: 5, Informative) by stretch611 on Monday February 12, @11:22AM (6 children)

    by stretch611 (6199) on Monday February 12, @11:22AM (#636632)

    I currently live in GA. About 20 years back, a "trauma center" fee was added for all cell phones. It was created by special statewide referendum during an election. It specifically said that the fees where to go to funding the creation of trauma centers across the state. (which is why the voters approved the fee.) It turns out that the fees NEVER went to fund trauma centers... EVER... all the money was appropriated into the "General Fund" to cover budget gaps.

    Additionally, we have specialty plates, (like many other states) with the proceeds after a "small" administrative fee going to the organization it represents. A local news station had a report a few years back... Out of the $35 fee for the specialty plate, only about $11-12 went to the organization. So, if you were getting a wildlife plate, less than 1/3rd of the additional fee you paid actual went to help the wildlife. Mind you everyone pays a $20 tag fee (tag=license plate in GA) annually and more when you buy the car, and depending on the specialty plate, you can be hit with a tag manufacturing fee on top of everything else. Many people, (including myself) returned their specialty plates that year.

    Of course, while I know GA does it, I am not surprised that other states do it as well. The state sets out special funding for a specific purpose and to sell it to the voters, than completely ignore it and raid the coffers.

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 12, @11:45AM (4 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 12, @11:45AM (#636644)

      The reason this shit is still going on is because we haven't started putting our elected representatives in bodybags over this malfeasance. I suppose you could also try voting them out, but it seems far more likely the next guy will do more of the same, whichever party they are from, unless you set the sort of permanent example that will deter future misdeed with something more damaging than 'having to go back to the private sector.'

      • (Score: 5, Insightful) by anubi on Monday February 12, @01:04PM (3 children)

        by anubi (2828) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 12, @01:04PM (#636668)

        They want us to think that as little as copying a song is a crime?

        But doing stuff like this is just "playing the game"?

        But who has the guts to hold a LawMaker accountable?

        --
        "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
        • (Score: 5, Interesting) by fustakrakich on Monday February 12, @03:35PM (1 child)

          by fustakrakich (6150) on Monday February 12, @03:35PM (#636710) Journal

          But who has the guts to hold a LawMaker accountable?

          Only the major financiers... They feel they are entitled to the services they pay for.

          • (Score: 3, Interesting) by archfeld on Monday February 12, @09:12PM

            by archfeld (4650) <treboreel@live.com> on Monday February 12, @09:12PM (#636831) Journal

            The High courts of Arizona have declared that the state legislature can and regularly does have the right to use fund s from any source to spend any way they want. It is the state legislatures business and right to determine when and where funds are spent, and no rider on any bill that dictates where and how said fund can be spent is valid. Thus they have been unable to secure funding for parks and schools for going on 2 years now because while many folks would be willing to fund those causes very few are willing to give more money to be wasted on 'so-called' economical development.

            --
            For the NSA : Explosives, guns, assassination, conspiracy, primers, detonators, initiators, main charge, nuclear charge
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 13, @07:43AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 13, @07:43AM (#637036)

          But who has the guNs to hold a LawMaker accountable?

          FTFY

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by JoeMerchant on Monday February 12, @04:42PM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday February 12, @04:42PM (#636732)

      Transparency and accountability in politics? Ain't nobody got time for that.

  • (Score: 2) by nobu_the_bard on Monday February 12, @02:00PM

    by nobu_the_bard (6373) on Monday February 12, @02:00PM (#636674)

    This is a widespread tactic the government uses.

    The Feds do it with the Patent office; that's part of why its such a mess, it has less funding than it appears to on paper. Money made from patent applications and related fees is supposed to be reinvested into the Patent office to maintain and improve it- they aren't allowed to directly put the money into "general funds" or such. So instead, they simply "transfer" the money from the Patent office on a regular basis to whatever other project. There aren't any rules that prevent doing this, and they're hardly inclined to go and add any now, so...

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 12, @02:51PM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 12, @02:51PM (#636699)

    But this isn't marketing, this is a fraud.

  • (Score: 2) by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us on Monday February 12, @05:12PM

    by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us (6553) on Monday February 12, @05:12PM (#636737)

    .... I'll pay attention to the FCC complaining about states robbing that fee when either A) 911 service stops, or B) Congress stops robbing the Social Security Trust Fund. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/scott-bittle-and-jean-johnson/trust-not-in-trust-funds_b_93898.html [huffingtonpost.com] https://www.ssa.gov/OACT/TRSUM/index.html [ssa.gov]

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Appalbarry on Monday February 12, @06:11PM

    by Appalbarry (66) on Monday February 12, @06:11PM (#636758) Journal

    For at least a decade Canadian cel phone companies charged a monthly, itemized, 911 fee, even to customers in remote areas that didn't have 911 services.

  • (Score: 2) by Joe Desertrat on Monday February 12, @11:42PM

    by Joe Desertrat (2454) on Monday February 12, @11:42PM (#636878)

    How about those extra fees supposed to be used by utilities and providers to improve service and infrastructure? We've been paying all along, but we keep getting excuses like net neutrality being in the way of spending and the like.

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