Dear Pennsylvania State Legislator:
On behalf of the members of National Taxpayers Union in Pennsylvania, I urge you to vote against HB 911, which would raise the 911 fee assessed on both wireless and landline telephones by 65 percent. At a time when many families continue to struggle with a weak economic recovery, this regressive fee increase would be particularly unwelcome.
Already, Pennsylvanians pay hefty taxes and fees for telephony services – a problem that would be exacerbated if this bill becomes law. Wireless consumers, in particular, shoulder an extremely heavy combined federal-state burden of 19.87 percent, which is eighth-highest in the country. This hurts all consumers in the Commonwealth, but is particularly harsh on Pennsylvanians of modest means and those living on fixed incomes.
Although adequately funding 911 services is important for public safety, this proposal would appear to take that notion to the extreme. If passed, HB 911 would bring in far more revenue for public safety and emergency programs than any other state in the country. Currently, Pennsylvania collects $192.8 million annually from the fee, which is the second-most in the nation. Only Texas, with double Pennsylvania’s population and nearly six times its landmass, collects more.
While the current draft does not permit these funds to be used for non-public safety or emergency response purposes, it should be noted that 17 other states have done so in just the past six years. For instance, New York diverted $20 million of 911 fees to the state General Fund in Fiscal Year 2013-2014. Meanwhile, Rhode Island routed $12.1 million of its $17.5 million in E911 collections to the General Fund, where they were used for other programs.
It would be far too easy, given the ongoing challenges with maintaining fiscal discipline in Harrisburg, to tap into new 911 fee proceeds for purposes unrelated to public safety at some future point. This would be unfair to telephone users and taxpayers in general.
Again, NTU urges opposition to HB 911 and its regressive, 65 percent 911 fee increase. Thank you for considering the views of Pennsylvania’s taxpayers.
Sincerely,Brandon ArnoldExecutive Vice President