N.J. Governor’s Budget to Divert $33 Million From Fallen Firefighters

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy / Getty Images

Update May 7, 2019 6:30 p.m.: On Tuesday afternoon, Murphy did an about-face on his budget proposal to divert $33 million from a relief fund for New Jersey firefighters. In a press statement, Murphy said, "we have listened to the concerns of our brothers and sisters in the firefighter community, whom I have the utmost respect and admiration for. As a result, I can say unequivocally that we are taking this budget option off the table. The administration remains committed to ensuring that no family of a fallen New Jersey firefighter will go without help during their greatest time of need."

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New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is coming under fire for his 2020 proposed budget which diverts $33 million from a fund which helps fallen firefighters to the state's general fund to use for anything he deems suitable.

Critics of the governor's plan are calling it "horrendous" that he would divert the millions from the fund which pays for burials and also offers financial help to firefighters killed, NJ Advance Media reports.

Murphy's 2020 state budget calls for transferring the money from the NJ State Fireman's Association into the state's general fund where it can be used for any purpose.

Ed Donnelly, president of the NJ Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association, the firefighter's union, told the Washington Free Beacon it was "disheartening to have a reporter approach me instead of my friends in Trenton."

"That fund is for the indigent and needy firefighters. We will do everything in our power to stop this," Donnelly said. "We're working through it to stop it. Since the late 1800s, we've been good stewards of this money and we shouldn't be penalized."

Others are criticizing the governor for filling his budget gap with funds slated for fallen heroes.

Local radio host Bill Spadea on Monday urged residents to call the governor's office to tell him "hands off the relief fund."

"It's one thing to make tough decisions to cut a budget, something we clearly need more of in New Jersey given out-of-control debt and annual deficits. It's another to target a relief fund intended to support the families of firefighters who lost their lives protecting our communities. That's exactly what Governor Phil Murphy is doing by raiding the relief fund for firefighters and using the money to plug unrelated budget holes," Spadea wrote.

Spadea is urging residents to pack the West Trenton Fire House on Monday night where Murphy is holding a Town Hall meeting to ask him why he is planning to divert millions "dedicated to fallen heroes and struggling families."

A volunteer fireman said Murphy's decision is short-sighted.

"It's disappointing, I don't think it's very well thought-out," said Anthony Falconeri, a volunteer fireman who is also a secretary for the Bernardsville Fire Relief Association which distributes funds from the NJ State Fireman's Association.

"Whether it's a volunteer or paid position, these people are putting their lives on the line and some of them need financial assistance for a variety of situations," Falconeri said. "In my 15 years involved, I never heard of a governor wanting to take from the fund."

"We are continuing talks with the governor's office," said Donnelly. "We hope this is rectified," he said, adding he is "hopeful they will look elsewhere to fill the budget gaps."

When asked if this was a slap in the face as the FMBA endorsed Murphy, Donnelly responded, "if it goes through it will be."