As Townsquare Media News has been reporting for the past week, 26 states currently allow “user fees” for public safety and New Jersey is one of them.

The ranking Republican on the State Senate Budget Committee says, in a direct response to our series he’s readying a bill to, at the very least, limit the authority of municipalities to impose fees for emergency services.

“Residents already pay fees for emergency services, they’re called property taxes,” says State Senator Tony Bucco. “If the highest property taxes in America aren’t enough to support basic public safety and emergency services, then there is something severely wrong with our spending priorities as a state.”

Bucco is working with legislative staff to study the laws of other states and propose a statute limiting the amounts that could be charged and/or under what circumstances. He hopes to submit a proposal to the Senate at its next full meeting. Bucco says, “What we’re trying to do is cap the fees or eliminate the fees altogether.”

“It adds insult to injury to ask someone whose house caught fire or who was the victim of a crime to cough up more money in addition to the taxes they pay,” insists Bucco continued. “Charging people for a basic service in their hour of need is just more proof that the size and cost of government have gotten out of control.”

Atlantic City, Bloomfield and Passiac have already passed ordinances creating “emergency response fees,” and several other Jersey towns are thinking about doing the same thing.

“These are services that are paid through property taxes or sales taxes and municipalities shouldn’t go looking elsewhere to fund essential services that government delivers” says Michael Barry, spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute. “There are some insurers that will pay these fees and there are some that will not. The existence of these types of taxes can place upward pressure on insurance rates in the long run.”

“Local officials, first and foremost, have an obligation if not a moral responsibility to provide public quality of life services. And they’re looking at ways they can do that, and at the same time be sensitive to property taxes,” explains New Jersey State League of Municipalities executive director Bill Dressel explains, “Local officials are trying make sure that in these dire economic times that the residents are not going to be over-taxed for these services.”