‘My constituents are scared’: Some California lawmakers want more funding for wildfire prevention

California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — State lawmakers representing some of the most fire-prone parts of California are calling for more ongoing funding for wildfire prevention projects.

This comes after the governor recently signed off on $300 million in emergency funds to be used for that purpose, but some say it does not go far enough. Some lawmakers feel the Legislature is not making this as much of a priority as they say it should be.

“I can tell you my constituents are scared,” said Republican Assemblyman James Gallagher. “I think people statewide are wanting to see us really address this issue with some vigor and some priority.”

Gallagher represents Paradise, the Butte County town decimated by the state’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire in 2018.

He authored a proposal this year to double the amount of money the state earmarks for wildfire prevention projects and forest management from $200 million to $400 million over the next five years. The proposal would also remove regulatory barriers and eliminate rules under the California Environmental Quality Act.

“If we want to get on top of the tinder box of fuel that we have in our forest and wildlands right now, you have to do two things. One, we need more money going into these projects, and two, we need to remove the red tape, CEQA and other barriers that stop these projects from moving forward,” Gallagher explained.

But Gallagher’s bill is stalling in its first hurdle in the Democrat-led Committee on Natural Resources, which he noted prioritized proposals to ban gas-powered leaf blowers and a study on wind energy.

“What I was told officially was they did not have time to hear my bill,” he said.

Gallagher is hoping his proposal can be addressed in the budget process. Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders have suggested broadly their revised budgets would include wildfire prevention efforts.

“The entire state is hurt by these catastrophic wildfires and it should be bipartisan in trying to do something about it,” Gallagher said.

Negotiations on the state budget begin this month.

FOX40 reached out to the chair of the Natural Resources Committee, Luz Rivas, for comment, a spokesperson noted the shorter schedule set aside several bills this year and went on to say in part that Gallagher’s proposal would reduce public and legislative oversight and wouldn’t take effect for at least a year.

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