Revised Wildfire Prevention/Fighting Numbers Straight From the Horse’s Mouth

Since my original post, there seems to have been some confusion over the exact budget numbers for Texas Forest Service and Wildfire Prevention/Fighting as enacted by the 82nd Legislature for the 2012-2013 biennium budget (which went into effect for Fiscal Year 2012 starting on September 1).

So I decided to go straight to the horse’s mouth.

I contacted my own State Representative, Larry Gonzales, who pointed me in the direction of Rep. John Otto, the legislative chairman for Article II of the state budget. One of his staffers was kind enough to get back to me with the following numbers.

It turns out that all the previous numbers were wrong, for various reasons. The numbers below all link to the official PDFs for the final budget numbers of the bills in question. And my liberal critics have, if not half a loaf, then at least a quarter-loaf.

The reason is that for the 2010-2011 biennium, the Forest service was allocated $54.5 million 2010 and $54.5 million for 2011. That amount was indeed reduced for the initial budget passed in the regular legislative session, to $37.7 million for 2012 and $37.5 million for 2013. But keep in mind that it was very clear that the budget was not finished at the end of the regular legislative session, as several outstanding issues (school funding, revenue enhancement, use or non-use of rainy day funds, etc.) still remained to be hashed out. That was why there was a special legislative session.

And in that special legislative session, two separate bills were passed which increased forest service/wildfire fighting and prevention funding: SB2, which added an additional $40 million to the forest service for FY 2012 specifically to fight wildfires (with any rollover, of which I’m pretty sure there will be none, to be carried into 2013), and HD4, which allocated an additional $81 million for fighting wildfires in the 2012-2013 biennium. (This is most likely where A&M got the $81 million figure for.) All those bills (and thus the funding increase) were passed and in the books months before the FY2012 budget started on September 1.

So, in summary:
Total 2010-2011 Biennium Forest Service/Wildfire Fighting Budget: $109 million.
Total 2012-2013 Biennium Forest Service/Wildfire Fighting Budget: $196.2 million.

So the Texas legislature authorized, and Governor Rick Perry signed, an 80% increase in wildfire fighting and prevention funding for the 2012-2013 biennium. Not quite double the amount I had in my original post, but pretty close.

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14 Responses to “Revised Wildfire Prevention/Fighting Numbers Straight From the Horse’s Mouth”

  1. [...] Note: My numbers below are somewhat off…but those of critical commentators are also off. See this post for the complete breakdown of Texas Forest Service/Wildfire Fighting and Prevention Fu… [...]

  2. [...] 2012/2013.  Fortunately, Battleswarm Blog can both think and do research – as seen here and here – which means that I don’t have to do any of the heavy lifting this time.  Bottom [...]

  3. [...] this month). Fortunately, Battleswarm Blog can both think and do research – as seen here and here – which means that I don’t have to do any of the heavy lifting this time. Bottom line: [...]

  4. [...] month).  Fortunately, Battleswarm Blog can both think and do research – as seen here and here – which means that I don’t have to do any of the heavy lifting this time.  Bottom [...]

  5. Steve says:

    Isn’t it correct to say that the baseline budget for the forest service was indeed cut and that all the legislature did in special session was provide essentially “disaster relief funds”? So that next year when all these emergency funds are exhausted–and you agree they will be, you’re left with a baseline budget for the Texas Forest Service that’s 32% lower than where it was in 10 and 11?

    And isn’t that the larger point the liberals are arguing correct?–that the operating budget was dramatically cut and that Texas therefore must rely on ancillary sources for funding (in this case a combination of Federal funds and a supplemental?)

  6. ben says:

    Thank you for doing this research.

  7. Michael says:

    Great work on all the numbers. I don’t understand why media outlets don’t do the same research before writing slanderous stories.

    The 109 million number for 2010-2011 has been discussed over at another blog as well. Apparently last biennium Texas took some 2009 stimulus money to add to the existing budget of 75 million to get to your 109 number. http://www.willisms.com/archives/2011/09/texas_forest_se.html

  8. Michael says:

    Steve, If you take out the stimulus money used in the 2010-2011 biennium then it brings the baseline back down to 75 million. That’s the number it’s been at for the past decade and that’s the number they passed in the regular session. You can’t borrow money, which inflates the budget number for that year, then claim that’s the new baseline.

  9. AK says:

    Actually, I think the liberal media have this one pretty much right. The funding bump was not stimulus money – the roughly extra $34 million is accounted for this way: $30 million of that was due to a law passed in 2007 that raised the cap on the volunteer grant fund from 15 to 30 million, so an extra $15 mil a year. And the roughly $4 million extra came from insurance fees & maintenance tax (higher premiums mean more was collected I guess). Please share with your friend at Willisms

  10. Lawrence Person says:

    And where might I be able to find a source for this information?

  11. AK says:

    Check out the methods of financing in the Forest Service budget – can be found on the LBB website. The bill that raised the account cap was HB 3315, link here: http://www.legis.state.tx.us/billlookup/text.aspx?LegSess=80R&Bill=HB3315.
    Look in the Comptroller’s BRE to see how much was in the volunteer fire dept. assistance account (answer: enough for a full appropriation at the capped amount)

  12. Lawrence Person says:

    The bill you cite was passed in the 2007 regular session, which means it would have gone into effect for the 2008-2009 biennium, not the 2010-2011 biennium. Which would suggest that it wasn’t responsible for the increase in those years.

  13. AK says:

    … the bill was still in effect for the 2010-2011 biennium, and will continue to be until its revised. The level to be collected in that account was set to be $30 million/year. The law doesn’t say that it all needs to be appropriated though… and budget writers did not for 2012-2012. They’re the responsible parties here.

  14. firefighter011 says:

    They’ve been hiding some money boy look at all those lines! So they lowered the forest service operating expenses by about 32% and increased money for “fighting wildfires”? Is “fighting wildfires” defined anywhere?? Where does that money go; corporations or public fire departments? Where can we find how much Governor Perry uses of our tax money for his current living expenses? I’d love to see his books! These criminal liberals and conservatives make any reasonable independent Texas citizen tired of playing their games!!!

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