California suffering through driest three years ever recorded, with no relief in sight
The California legislature’s efforts to protect its citizens from the devastation inflicted by firestorm conditions this year have left little in the way of money for the state’s wildfire fund, which has been on the verge of running dry for the past three years.
The current state budget has no money to pay the nearly $13 million required to buy and restore equipment for firefighters across the state, or to hire a new chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency as had been proposed.
“The Legislature has been unable to come to an agreement on the next-year state budget,” a summary of the meeting of the State Senate Ways and Means Committee stated. “At this time, the Legislature would prefer not to pass a new budget until the 2017-18 fiscal year begins.”
The state’s current budget is largely composed of the last year’s budget. The House passed a $125 billion spending bill on Aug. 30 that would have included increased income and sales tax amounts in the current fiscal year, although the Senate and Assembly have yet to agree on a new budget.
While the state faces a nearly $10 billion deficit, Gov. Jerry Brown has said he would be willing to forgo a special election for the U.S. Senate in November if a $1.5 billion pot of money in the next-year budget was dedicated to preparing for fires.
The amount for next year was to be put together using an earlier estimate that the 2017-18 budget would be $1.5 billion short of the funds needed for the state’s wildfire recovery. That estimate was based in part on funding to protect agriculture and local governments from the cost of emergency management, the state’s chief economic analyst, John N. Gleeson, told a legislative committee on Wednesday.
If approved, the budget could come under strain if the state can’t reach the $1.5 billion figure by the time the 2017-18 budget actually becomes law in September.
For the fiscal year that ends June 30, 2017, state expenditures are expected to be about $2.8 billion short of the $13 billion required to cover the costs of firefighting.
Brown has called for a special election for the U.S. Senate based on that shortfall. The state’s previous election cost the state’s taxpayers more than $500,000.
The state has a $700 million pot of money that can go