Bucco, Peters introduce amendment to protect needy firefighter fund

TRENTON – A fund that provides financial assistance to firefighters and their families in times of need would be shielded from being raided by the state under ACR232, a constitutional amendment introduced by assemblymen Anthony Bucco and Ryan Peters.

“Firefighters represent the bravest and most courageous amongst us. In times of our greatest need, they are always there for us, and we must guarantee that we are there for them and their families should tragedy strike,” said Bucco (R-Boonton).

“Firefighters sacrifice time with their families, sacrifice their health and in the worst case scenario, their lives, all to protect their neighbors. A vast majority of our firefighters are volunteers, but even our paid ones don’t do it for the money, but because of a greater call for public service and community. Since they give so much to the people of New Jersey and ask for so little in return, it’s only right that we protect these brave men and women in their times of need,” said Peters (R-Burlington).

The New Jersey State Firemen’s Association provides financial assistance for firefighter burials, retirement homes and in-home medical care, among other things. In May, it was uncovered that Governor Phil Murphy planned to shift $33 million from the association’s coffers in order to pay for his proposed budget.

The move drew outrage from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, causing Murphy to quickly reverse course. The proposed amendment would make it so that no current or future administration could divert money away from the fund for state purposes.

“While I’m glad we were able to stop Governor Murphy from raiding the Firefighter Relief Association funds this year as a one-shot gimmick to help balance his bloated budget, this bill would protect these funds in perpetuity. When the Governor backed off, he stated how much he admired our firefighters. Well, now is the time to backup those words and support this constitutional amendment. I’ve proudly served my community as a volunteer firefighter for the past 39 years, so I know better than anyone how much they deserve our respect, and this bill will put the money where our mouths are,” Bucco said.

The Firemen’s Association fund is collected through a 2 percent tax on out-of-state insurance companies’ premiums on New Jersey properties. Last year, the fund provided about $10 million for firefighter burial assistance and about another $10 million to retirement homes for firefighters.