TRENTON: Training change for EMTs sought

25 06 2009

emt patchLooking to ease demands on a training fund for emergency medical technicians from which $4 million is being taken to balance the state budget, state lawmakers are moving to extend EMT certifications from three years to five.

The New Jersey State First Aid Council, which supports the bill, says the change wouldn’t fix the dilemma looming for the training fund, which is projected to have almost no money remaining by next summer.

But the council says the change would allow time to replenish the fund, which is financed through 50-cent surcharges on all moving violations, by reducing demands to pay for EMT training for a few years and provide a window to figure out a long-term plan.

“While this bill will provide some help, it will not solve the problem,” said Howard Meyer, a 38-year EMT who is legislative director of the New Jersey State First Aid Council. He said additional laws will be needed within the next year.

“Other than having $2.4 million returned to the fund, there have been no other suggestions brought forward on how we can assist the volunteer EMT training community quickly, and quick action is needed now,” Meyer said.

Sen. Diane Allen, R-Burlington, said Gov. Jon S. Corzine ought to consider using part of the state’s unexpectedly large collections from its tax amnesty program — $617 million and counting, easily topping the $200 million expected — to avoid raiding the EMT fund.

“We know that we have $400 million more. Why not wait to see what’s going to happen in the budget as it is rejiggered to see if this is actually needed? Since it is based on the funds being stolen, maybe they don’t have to be,” Allen said.

The bill was approved 24-14 by the Senate last Thursday and is now before an Assembly committee. It requires approvals there, by the full Assembly and by Corzine before it can become law and wouldn’t take effect until more than six months after it is enacted.




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