New Year, New Budget, New Priorities


January 2020


Just six days after we rang in both a new year and a new decade, we returned to the hustle and bustle of Sacramento getting right to work on the year ahead. One of the first orders of business was the state’s 2020-21 annual budget. On Friday, the governor released his proposed budget and, while it will take a few weeks for me to review the details of his proposal and assess how its priorities will impact the people of our district and state, there’s one funding focus that I am particularly interested in – its attention on wildfire preparation, resiliency and our first responders.

I’ve written quite a bit about wildfires in this publication, and for good reason. More than half of our district is in a “Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone,” the type of community at the greatest risk of severe wildfires. As the chair of Assembly Natural Resources, I am tasked with overseeing wildfire prevention and response, including forest management and CAL FIRE. It is an area of policy that needs a dramatic uptick in attention and investment. We need only look at the horrific wildfires that have ravaged our state over the last few years, or the unparalleled blazes raging around the globe, to understand that when it comes to addressing wildfires, time is not on our side.

Fortunately, this year’s budget takes a proactive, holistic and enhanced focus on ensuring that our communities, agencies and first responders are given what they need to prepare for and respond to these dangerous and unpredictable disasters.

So, what is in the budget that has me so hopeful?

The term “wildfire” shows up in his budget proposal over 200 times. In last year’s budget, we saw a record level of investment go towards fighting fires – $1 billion to be exact. This budget seeks to increase funding to the Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection and CAL FIRE, to add additional firefighters during the surge of peak wildfire season, provide more year-round engines, training, and more first responders pre-positioned in high-risk areas.

Among the investments we can be making towards how we handle wildfires this could be the most important. The new normal of wildfires has stretched our first responders beyond their limits. Incredibly long hours in the worst conditions, and having to go from one fire to the next up and down the state, is having a tremendous impact on their physical and mental health. This is resulting in an alarming increase in the rates of severe depression and even suicide among first responders.

The proposed funding addresses this hard reality head-on. By investing in the training and hiring of new emergency personnel, we can hopefully put an end to the incredible personal cost our heroes are having to expend to keep us safe.

In conjunction, the governor is also proposing that our emergency personnel have the right tools they need to get the job done as expediently and safely as possible. The budget outlines a $9 million investment to implement the Wildfire Forecast Center, a joint project among CAL OES, CAL FIRE, the Military Dept., and Public Utility Commission that will use the latest technology to develop fire forecasts and improve situational awareness, allowing for better planning, response time and operational efficiency. The proposal includes $80 million in one-time funds to make smart investments in innovative tools such as the latest in light detection and ranging (LiDAR) and remote sensing technology to aid the new Wildfire Forecast Center’s efforts by providing up-to-the-minute and detailed data on wildfire risk.

Finally, the budget puts
forward investments toward making our communities more resilient in the first place, by putting around $100 million towards a statewide home hardening program and $50 million in one-time funds to invest in safer power infrastructure.

The initial proposal put out by the administration is only a first step. Over the next six months, we in the legislature will be holding public hearings on the proposal and meeting with our constituents, advocates and other government agencies as we craft the final budget. In that time, I am very interested in what you think about this year’s budget – particularly the new wildfire investments that could do so much to keep our home, lives, loved ones and first responders safe when, not if, that next wildfire comes.

So what do you think? As always, I’d love to hear from you. Please reach out to me with any comments, questions, concerns or to schedule a sit down with me about your budget priorities. You can reach me through my District Office at (818) 558-3043 or