Firefighters saying Pawlenty blowing smoke on protecting public safety

A coalition of organizations that represent Minnesota’s 20,000 firefighters says Pawlenty is not keeping his promise to protect public safety. They say he’s using $9.9 million in fire fighting training money to balance the state’s budget.

Pawlenty is using funds in the Fire Safety Account as part of his plan to erase a $1.2 billion budget deficit. The money is created from a fee on homeowner and commercial insurance policies (page 33 of his budget plan).

Tom Thornberg, president of the Minnesota Association of Professional Firefighters, says Pawlenty isn’t keeping his promise to protect public safety programs.

“Make no mistake, the governor’s budget does not public safety. The governor’s budget does not protect fire fighters and most assuredly the governor’s budget does not protect families. We can’t do our jobs if we are not properly trained and equipped.”

Gov. Pawlenty is using a mix of one-time money, spending cuts and federal funds that aren’t yet available to balance the state’s budget. Pawlenty’s spokesman couldn’t be reached for comment. I’ll post his response if/when he does comment. Here’s a statement from Gov. Pawlenty’s spokesman, Brian McClung:

We recognize there are some difficult reductions in the Governor’s budget balancing plan. Budget analysts at MMB determined that the Fire Safety Account has a structural surplus of $4 million per year. The proposal uses $9.9 million from that account to help balance the budget. However, $4 million was already allocated last year and another $2 million will remain available, for a total of $6 million for firefighter training and other uses during this budget period.

The Governor’s budget preserved core state public safety programs and protected funding for areas like the State Patrol, state prison guards, and other programs.

  • T Bush

    Core public safety programs so often seem to include law enforcement and criminal lockups, but stop short of including fire and EMS. In Minnesota, we are much more dependent on volunteer and paid on-call staffing in fire and EMS when compared to many other states in the Great Lakes and upper Midwest.

    Training is a critical component for publice safety in fire and EMS. It applies across the board for both career and volunteer systems that provide first response during times of emergency in this State!

    The money has been set aside for training, but can’t be used until it is released by the state. That makes it a little disingenuous to say that it is a surplus if it hasn’t been readily available to use for the intended purpose.