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State Wildfire Response Costs Estimated to Be Higher Than Budgeted


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The 2020-21 Budget: Governor's Wildfire-Related Proposals

February 21, 2020 - While wildfires have always been a natural part of California’s ecosystems, recent increases in the severity of wildfires and the adverse impacts on communities have increased the focus on the state’s ability to effectively prevent, mitigate, and respond to wildfire risks. This report has two parts. First, we assess the state’s approach to addressing wildfire risks in light of the complex challenges that make an efficient and effective approach difficult. Second, we evaluate the Governor’s various wildfire‑related budget proposals in the absence of having a statewide strategic wildfire plan.

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The 2018-19 Budget: Fire Recovery Proposals

March 1, 2018 - The Governor’s budget assumes $760 million in additional General Fund will be needed in 2017‑18 for response and recovery associated with the 2017 fires in Northern and Southern California, $388 million of which will be reimbursed by the federal government in 2018‑19. For 2018‑19, the Governor proposes a total of $35 million from the General Fund for recovery costs associated the fires in Northern California, such as related to rebuilding public infrastructure and backfilling local tax revenue losses. While we do not raise specific concerns about the administration’s funding requests, we recommend that the Legislature direct the administration to report at budget hearings on the proposed funding and submit formal proposals for any future budget-year funding requests. We also recommend that the Legislature consider its priorities for allocating assistance to local governments affected by disasters and longer-term strategies for reducing future wildfire risk, such as strategies to improve forest health.

Correction (3/12/18): When this post was originally published, Figure 1 displayed the wrong graph. The correct graph is now in place.

Hearing Handout

[PDF] Wildfires, Emergency Readiness, and Response

January 31, 2019 - Presented to: Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee

Handout

[PDF] The 2021-22 Budget: Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

February 4, 2021 - This publication discusses the Governor's 2021-22 January budget proposals for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, including $143 million for hand crews, $8 million for defensible space inspectors, and $54 million for various capital outlay projects.

Handout

[PDF] The 2021-22 Budget: Wildfire Resilience Package—Analysis of Individual Programs

February 5, 2021 - This publication provides detailed information and our initial comments on each component of the Governor's 2021-22 package of proposals—totaling $1 billion—to reduce the risk of severe and damaging wildfires. (See also our publication The 2021-22 Budget: Wildfire Resilience Package for an overview of and our initial comments on the package.)

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Improving California's Forest and Watershed Management

April 4, 2018 - This report consists of five sections. First, we review the importance of and benefits provided by California’s forests. Second, we provide information regarding how forests are managed in California, including ownership, state and federal policies and programs, and funding. Third, we review the current conditions of forests and watersheds across the state, including the concerning implications and recent consequences of those conditions, as well as the actions that would be needed to make improvements. Fourth, in the findings section, we highlight shortcomings in how the state manages its forests and watersheds. Fifth, we offer recommendations for actions the Legislature could take to improve forest and watershed management in California.

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The 2019-20 Budget: California Spending Plan—Resources and Environmental Protection

October 17, 2019 - The 2019-20 budget includes over $12 billion for the state’s natural resources and environmental protection programs. This post describes budgetary actions related to the annual cap-and-trade expenditure plan, support for a new safe and affordable drinking water program, funding for a variety of wildfire prevention and response activities, as well as other significant changes.

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[PDF] The 2019-20 Budget: Natural Resources and Environmental Protection

February 14, 2019 - In this report, we assess several of the Governor’s budget proposals in the natural resources and environmental protection areas. Based on our review, we recommend various changes, as well as additional legislative oversight. We provide a complete listing of our recommendations at the end of this report.

Handout

[PDF] Wildfire Prevention and Forest Resiliency

August 31, 2021 - This handout provides background information on recent wildfire resilience-related budget actions. It also provides an update on the administration’s progress thus far towards committing the funding provided in the April 2021 Wildfire and Forest Resilience Early Action Package to specific projects and activities.

Hearing Handout

[PDF] State Spending on Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation

October 20, 2020 - Presented to: Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 3 on Resources and Transportation Hon. Richard Bloom, Chair

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A Primer: California's Wildland Fire Protection System

April 12, 2005 - California's wildland fire protection system involves multiple levels of government, requires significant levels of personnel and equipment, and relies on a complex series of interagency agreements. This primer is intended to assist the Legislature in understanding how wildland fire protection services are delivered and the major cost drivers affecting spending. We also make recommendations for increasing legislative oversight of state expenditures for wildland fire protection and for reducing these expenditures.

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[PDF] The 2010-11 Budget: Resources and Environmental Protection

March 8, 2010 - In reviewing the Governor's budget proposal, we uncovered current actions and proposals of the administration that either circumvent the Legislature's authority, make it difficult for the Legislature to oversee the administration's spending, or limit the Legislature's flexibility in making decisions. We found that the administration is: developing new renewable energy procurement requirements that circumvent legislative policy as reflected in current state law (known as the renewables portfolio standard); using an Emergency Fund--intended to pay for large-incident wildland firefighting costs--to cover some day-to-day departmental expenditures that are more appropriately made subject to legislative budget review; proposing a somewhat similar emergency fund for flood management that would be structured to allow the administration to augment it at its discretion without notifying the Legislature; and proposing again to fund recreation activities at State Water Project facilities in a way that escapes legislative budgetary review for all the spending. Finally, we recommend rejection of the Governor’s proposal to dedicate the ongoing Tranquillon Ridge oil lease revenues to support state parks, because it limits the Legislature's future decision making.

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The 2018-19 Budget: Resources and Environmental Protection

February 14, 2018 - In this report, we assess many of the Governor’s budget proposals in the resources and environmental protection areas and recommend various changes. Below, we summarize our major findings and recommendations. We provide a complete listing of our recommendations at the end of this report.

Hearing Handout

[PDF] Overview of Wildfire Budget and Technology Proposals

March 6, 2019 - Presented to: Assembly Committee on Governmental Organization and Senate Committee on Governmental Organization