Perry cuts Texas Forest Service’s budget in the face of record wildfires

As Texas plains continue to turn from yellow to orange and black, an ineffectual Rick Perry continues to offer few solutions for Texans as he tours the country campaigning for President. Since March, over 2.5 million acres of land and 10,000 homes have burned, with Rick Perry’s only response being to blast the Obama Administration and FEMA for not providing enough aid and cut the Texas Forest Service’s budget by $34 million.

In the state of Texas, over 80% of fire departments are comprised of volunteers, who respond to over 90% of emergencies. Of all Texas fire departments, 879 fire departments are run by volunteers, 114 are paid, and 187 use a combination of paid and volunteer firefighters. These fire departments are facing funding cuts from $30 million to $7 million this year. They depend primarily on grants and are covered mostly by local government funding- over $2.3 billion a year compared to the state’s $26 million.

Since the wildfires began, FEMA has offered Texas over 26 types of assistance, giving the state aid that covers 75% of emergency relief costs such as evacuations, equipment, and camping provisions for firefighters. On the other hand, Perry’s cuts-only approach has slashed the Forest Service’s budget from $117 million to $83 million, ignoring the Forest Service’s claims that it needs an additional $61 million to cover the damages impacted by wildfires this year. These funding cuts will undoubtedly cause more fire damage due to longer response times.

Meanwhile, Texas continues to burn while Rick Perry campaigns, touting Texas as “a model for the nation in disaster preparedness and response.” It’s funny how a governor who boasts so much about Texas’ self-reliance while blasting the Obama Administration and FEMA for being so ineffective is relying mostly on them to quell the flames that his budget cuts continue to feed. It’s clear that Perry would rather play politics than take care of his state that he boasts so heartily about. Texas needs real leadership to stop these wildfires, not hollow politics and a policy approach that’s all smoke and mirrors.

Sources: Reuters, Burnt Orange Report, Office of the Governor Rick Perry