Saying Governor Keating has apparently recognized the folly of his original budget proposal, a state lawmaker is applauding the chief executive's decision to scrap his plans to cut funding for rural firefighters. The Governor announced his budget reversal today.
"This is one of those cases where I was glad to see the Governor flip flop on an issue. I applaud him for being big enough to admit he made a mistake when he tried to cut the cash flow to rural fire departments. Our firefighters in rural Oklahoma need more support, not less, and I'm glad Governor Keating finally recognized that," said Senator Jeff Rabon, chairman of the Joint Committee on Accountability in Government.
In his original executive budget issued just two weeks ago, Governor Keating proposed cutting rural fire grants this fiscal year, taking away $1.2 million dollars that was allocated to the program in last year's budget. Today, however, the Governor announced several revisions in his budget, one of which restored the $1.2 million for the fire grants.
"We've spent the past two weeks trying to explain the importance of rural fire grants to Governor Keating. We pointed out that rural Oklahoma can't be economically viable if its vital services aren't funded. Apparently, he took our advice to heart and decided to do the right thing," said Senator Rabon.
The Hugo legislator said he was surprised when Governor Keating originally proposed cutting rural fire grants, noting that in the same executive budget section which included the proposed reduction (pg. 98), the Governor documented the fact that the state had experienced the worst fire season in 17 years last year.
"I was surprised that he pointed out how tough a year rural firefighters had and then turned around and cut them in the same breath. It didn't make sense to go after people who had just been forced to stretch their resources to the limit, not to mention the fact that they risked their lives in the process," said Senator Rabon.
Rural fire grants are traditionally used for equipment purchases and other items related to rural fire protection.
Given the record fire season of last year, Senator Rabon said he would have been even more impressed had Governor Keating agreed to increase grant funding this year. Even with today's budget revision, the fire program will receive a standstill appropriation.
"After last year, a lot of our rural fire departments are hurting and in need of extra help. I'm certainly glad the Governor has decided not to cut them, but at the same time, I have to admit I¹m a little disappointed that he didn't offer to increase their funding," said Senator Rabon.
"These guys put their lives on the line everyday to protect people and property in rural Oklahoma. The least we can do is make sure they have the resources to do their jobs as safely as possible."