Fri., Feb. 19, 2016
JFAC votes to pay $60M in wildfire suppression costs out of current year’s budget
The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee has voted unanimously to transfer $60 million from the current year’s budget to cover fire suppression costs on state-protected lands during the 2015 fire season. That transfer reduces the year-end balance the state will have at the end of the current budget year from more than $114 million to just over $54 million.
Gov. Butch Otter’s budget had proposed a $50 million transfer, but in the coming, fiscal 2017 budget year, rather than the current 2016 fiscal year; JFAC’s action moves it up. “I think it’s the wise thing to do,” said Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, JFAC co-chair. “This leaves us a good balance to go into this year. … It certainly comes close to paying what we know we owe.”
Wildfire suppression costs on state-protected lands this past year, at $60.2 million, were 354 percent of the 10-year average of $17 million; 16 fires escaped initial attack, and the largest, the Clearwater Complex, burned 68,100 acres and 62 homes. “We don’t seem to be average any more,” Bell said. “As we go forth in the 2017 budgets, you might keep that in mind, too.”