Fact Checking Hightower’s Claim on Perry and the Forest Service
In this week’s Politfact Texas, Gardner Selby of the Austin American-Statesman talks to KUT’s Emily Donahue about a claim made by former Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower.
Hightower said on MSNBC recently that Perry’s “state officials” say the latest wildfires were inevitable because of hot, dry, windy conditions and because Perry and the Republican-led Legislature “managed to slash the budget of the volunteer fire departments in our state by 75 percent in the last legislative session.”
“People’s homes are burning down because of [Perry’s] failure to stand up … to fund our firefighting capability,” Hightower said.
The state budget that Perry signed into law this June includes a 70 percent cut to a fund that helps volunteer fire departments buy clothing and equipment, including fire trucks, and pay for training. The amount for those grants had been about $23 million a year. Now it’s $7 million.
The Texas Forest Service, which oversees the grants, said this change means it won’t be doling out money for fire trucks until late in the year, when it knows how much money is left to give out. However, the service also says this reduction had no effect on its ability to fight fires.
The agency can go back and ask lawmakers to reimburse its firefighting costs. Earlier this year, for instance, it got about $120 million from lawmakers to pay for past costs.
Politifact Texas rated Hightower’s statement false.
Listen to the interview by clicking the player above.