As winter storms slam Oregon, Democrats are proposing to raid the 911 emergency services fund and divert $8.1 million to the General Fund for other purposes. House Republicans today said local governments depend on the revenue to deliver emergency services to Oregonians throughout the state.
“These severe winter storms highlight Oregon’s need for dependable emergency services,” said House Republican Leader Bruce Hanna (R-Roseburg). “Rather than curb their unsustainable spending, the Democrats are exploiting the 911 fund to prop up the state budget. House Republicans are not supportive of turning Oregonians’ phone bills into another revenue stream for the General Fund.”
In 2007, House Republicans supported extending the sunset of the “911 tax” to sustain funding for emergency services. The tax, imposed on telephone lines and cell phone users, was enacted in 1981 to help local governments pay for establishing, operating, or improving the 911 emergency reporting system. The 2009-11 Governor’s Recommended Budget proposes raiding 10 percent of the fund for discretionary spending.
“Local governments need this funding to enable first responders to help Oregonians in emergency situations,” said Rep. Andy Olson (R-Albany), a former Oregon State Police member. “Oregon is a leader in the nation for Emergency 911 services. Shifting ten percent of the 911 dollars would chip away at the solid foundation that Oregon has developed through its emergency response system.”
House Republicans said they will work in 2009 to ensure that fund isn’t tapped for spending on unrelated agencies and programs.