This is what irresponsible (read: tea party) governing gets you:
Even with this knowledge, the state this year cut its contribution to the Volunteer Fire Department Assistance Program, a vital resource administered by the Texas Forest Service that provides volunteer firefighters with training and equipment. In 2009, lawmakers put $59.5 million into it. When budget time came again this year, every state agency knew they were facing cuts. However, the Texas Forest Service asked for an exemption “due to the agency’s critical role in public safety in the areas of wildfire and emergency response,” and asked that lawmakers only shave $2.5 million off the top.
Instead, legislators proposed a 39% cut in the Forest Service’s Wildfire and Emergency Services budget, and the bulk of that cut came out of the general revenue contribution to volunteer firefighters. That $59.5 million for 2010-2011 falls to $27 million for 2012-2013 – a 55% cut. On top of that, the Lege pulled 5% out of the Rural Volunteer Fire Department Insurance Fund, cutting its already insignificant $2 million contribution by $100,000.
The Texas GOP-dominant Legislature does not just cut its own funding to first responders: It also restricts their ability to pay for themselves. Back in 2009, then-state Rep. Valinda Bolton, D-Austin, championed House Joint Resolution 112, giving Emergency Service Districts the power to ask voters in unincorporated areas for construction bonds. As populations swell beyond city limits, ESDs struggle to build enough station houses and buy enough equipment, and their response times suffer as a result. But Bolton’s measure faced unexpected opposition, and the reasoning, she said at the time, was simple: “The caption on the bill actually has ad valorem in it,” and ad valorem tax bills die in the Texas Legislature.
Last year, while Gov. Rick Perry was receiving a re-election endorsement from the Texas State Association of Fire Fighters
Can’t say I disagree:
Perry’s right in arguing for expediting assistance in times of crisis. But I can’t be the only one to note the soot-black irony of Perry – whose surge in the GOP horse race is attributable to his states’-rights-asserting, safety-net-dismantling strand of corporatism disguised as bootstrapping populist hokum – calling on the feds for help after slashing state funding for volunteer fire departments.