(The Center Square) — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is vetoing cut to the fire department's and other agency's budgets as wildfires ravage the state.
Brown notified Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, and Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, of the line-item veto sent late Monday.
"Until we understand the total impacts and costs, we must both help Oregonians and be judicious with our funds," Brown wrote. "Given the advent of the wildfires, I am writing to you today to outline vetoes that I intend to make to ensure that state agencies fighting wildfires have necessary resources in place to respond to the ongoing statewide wildfires state of emergency."
Brown's vetoes amount to a combined total of $65 million.
The governor is also shooting down $100 million in funds that state lawmakers set aside for rising health care costs and social services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brown is also blocking more than $17 million in proposed cuts to a number of state agencies, including the Department of Forestry, Oregon State Police, and Department of Environmental Quality.
In her letter, Brown also asked legislators to hold at least $150 million in the state’s emergency fund for anticipated wildfire costs.
This all comes as Oregon is looking at a $1.2 billion annual budget deficit that the legislature attempted to correct during a special session in August.
There are 22 uncontrolled fires burning throughout Oregon and Washington, the NIFC reported Wednesday. Western Oregon's Santiam and Riverside Fires remain one mile apart and threaten thousands of homes across multiple counties.
At least one home lost to the state's uncontrolled Santiam Fire in the Willamette Valley is Oregon Senate Minority Leader Fred Girod's, R-Stayton, the Oregonian reported.
Oregon Republicans have decried what they describe as the state and Brown's mismanagement of Oregonian forests over the past week, including former state Rep. Julie Parrish who wrote to the Washington Post.
“But in recent decades, political power in Oregon has accumulated in urban Portland and its surrounding suburbs,” Parrish wrote. “Residents of these areas – insulated from the dangers of land mismanagement – have insisted on preserving the forests as untouchable playgrounds.”
Oregon U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden also expressed displeasure for the state's forest management while calling on the federal government to provide more funding for fighting its current blazes.
“This debate has been going on for too long, with misguided priorities on both sides,” Wyden said.
Wyden announced this week he is introducing legislation that would allow controlled burns during winter months on federal lands to prevent greater wildfires.
During a Monday press briefing, Brown brought up the reality that a Republican walkout in the legislature earlier this year killed several bills that included wildfire funding and more than 15 forest protection projects for 2020 through 2021.
According to the National Interagency Fire Coordination Center's latest report on Tuesday, Oregon's ongoing fires have cost more than $53.7 million so far.