Saturday, September 10, 2011
From the off-topic irony department: Fire Follies
Earlier this year, Governor Perry and legislative leaders staunchly refused to allow Texas' Rainy Day Fund to be accessed to prevent widespread budget cuts, ostensibly on the (entirely specious) grounds that the money might be needed to combat a natural disaster.
Then, when the drought of the century hit - while the legislative session was still in full swing, it should be mentioned - Governor Perry's response wasn't to focus more state resources on wildfire prevention or to push for a comprehensive water plan. Instead he asked the public to pray for rain, even issuing an official proclamation. In the months that followed (should we say, in response?), the drought spread by orders of magnitude to cover the entire state.
As it turns out, part of Texas' much-vaunted austerity measures this spring included slashing the budget for state firefighters and grants to volunteer fire departments, including agencies now combating the blazes in Central Texas. Reported the Huffington Post, "The Texas Forest Service's funding was sliced from $117.7 million to $83 million. More devastating cuts hit the assistance grants to volunteer fire departments around the state. Those grants were slashed 55 percent from $30 million per year in 2010 and 2011 to $13.5 million per year in 2012 and 2013. Those cuts are effective now." Further, "In some cases, fire officials say, firefighters have had to pay out of pocket for basic necessities like proper protective gear and fuel to get them to the scene."
So Texas cut the budget to save money for a natural disaster, then when a natural disaster occurs we're unprepared to deal with it because of budget cuts. Genius.