WA public lands commissioner: ‘I’ll be disappointed’ if new wildfire funding source not in budget deal

OLYMPIA, Wash. – As a budget agreement falls into place in Olympia, the State Department of Natural Resources hopes a final deal includes new funding to help fight and prevent wildfires for years to come.

The DNR asked lawmakers to approve a plan that would create a designated fund for wildfires, using revenue from a slight tax increase on property and casualty insurance premiums.

The .52% tax increase would generate an estimated $62.5 million dollars annually, DNR projected.

While she was unsure Friday whether the agency’s request will make it into a final budget, Public Lands Commission Hilary Franz said she will fight for it until the last minute. She said the funding is crucial in order to prevent worsening fires seasons.

“It will be the new normal unless this state steps up and starts investing in preventing the problem we have,” she told Q13 News This Morning.

Even if lawmakers don’t agree to a designated funding stream, they could still appropriate additional money in the budget for wildfire training, prevention, and fighting. However, that would mean DNR would need to revisit funding for each new budget.

“Right now, the fact is that if we don’t start investing in this we are going to pay regardless," Franz said. "We’re already paying $153 million annually. The question is, are we going to pay to react ... or are we going to pay to actually invest in restoring the health of our forests, reducing the casualties to our communities and to our firefighters?"

Her reaction if funding is not included in the budget?

"I'll be disappointed, frankly."

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