PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - It appears a deal has been reached for the money to combat wildfires in Arizona. Gov. Doug Ducey tweeted out on Monday that he and the state Legislature have agreed to spend $100 million to battle and prevent wildfires. That includes giving firefighters the latest equipment and giving communities the resources they need. The cash will also be used to counteract the after-effects of wildfires, like flooding and mudslides. Ducey said the special session will start on Tuesday and a vote is expected sometime this week.
"While Arizona has strong wildfire suppression and prevention efforts in place, we need to do more. Our brave firefighters must have all the necessary tools, resources and support to fight the blazes and stay safe," Ducey said in his tweet. He added that hard-hit communities and nonprofits need financial support to help those impacted.
Last week, Ducey called for a special session after he toured the damage left behind by the Telegraph and Mescal fires, which are burning about 45 miles to the east of Phoenix. He talked to House Speaker Rusty Bowers, who lost his getaway home in Globe, who said the state's wildfire funds were depleted.
Bowers said Sunday that he thought between $10 million and $20 million would be needed for the state Fire Suppression Fund and possibly $50 million for flood prevention and other recovery efforts.
“It could be more, and I’m willing to do more,” Bowers said. “We have the funds now, and we need to make sure that we are ready.”
The number turned out to be quite a bit more — $25 million to pay for state prisoners to clear brush under direction of state forestry officials and $75 million for the fire fund, to help affected people and property owners recover and to prepare for the fallout from multiple large fires that have burned across the state so far this fire season.
Bowers, Senate President Karen Fann, Senate Minority Leader Rebecca Rios and House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding met with the state forester and other Ducey administration officials Monday afternoon to discuss the scope of needed funding.
“This wildfire season has already given us an idea of what’s to come, and we need resources to protect Arizona’s communities and first responders,” Rios said in a statement. “This investment is necessary to support those in need and help safety officials fight wildfires in the state, while also providing aid for communities afterward.”
However, it's unclear if a special session is needed since the Legislature is still in session. It's in its 155th day as lawmakers try to pass a budget bill that includes massive tax cuts. That measure has stalled since two GOP members and all the Democrats oppose it. But Ducey said on Thursday a special session is needed since it'll help focus legislators on one subject that has bipartisan support. The Legislature faces a June 30 deadline to pass a budget for the 2022 fiscal year that begins July 1.
FIRE UPDATE:State Legislative Leaders and I have agreed to invest $100 million to combat and prevent wildfires, equip firefighters and communities with the resources they need, and prepare for after effects such as flooding and mudslides. 1/— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) June 15, 2021
The governor’s January budget proposal noted that state firefighting costs exceeded $39 million in the last five years while appropriations were only about $20 million. He sought a boost in that spending.
The governor also sought to increase the amount of cash put into an emergency fund he controls and often uses to make up the difference in actual firefighting expenses.
Firefighting efforts may be paid for with either state or federal funding, depending on the fire’s location on public or private land, among other factors.