While unveiling his revised budget Thursday, Governor Gavin Newsom turned his back on fire victims and the struggling Town of Paradise.
The Governor’s May Revise budget claws back $7.3 million in funding that was approved in last year’s budget to help keep the Paradise Irrigation District (PID) financially stable after its customer base was decimated in the 2018 Camp Fire. Without this promised funding, the ability to provide water to Town residents is now in question.
“It’s beyond the pale - taking funds from Camp Fire recovery. Every member of the Legislature recognizes that cuts will need to be made in order to balance the state budget,” said James Gallagher (R-Yuba). “But cutting off Paradise’s water supply in the middle of the Town’s recovery is a cold hearted decision. $7 million won’t balance the budget but it means everything to this Town that has been through so much. It’s particularly shocking because we have worked cooperatively with the Governor for the last two years in the wake of this tragedy. It is unacceptable. It won’t be tolerated in any way.”
Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama) said, “Bringing back clean, reliable water is critical for the health and safety of residents who are rebuilding their lives. Without this funding, the Town of Paradise’s recovery effort may come to a halt.”
“It is heartless to cut critical funding that was promised and approved into law to bring back clean water to Paradise, while hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for the unsustainable High Speed Rail and the enforcement of the 'job-killer' AB 5 remain in this budget. It’s been said that the 'values' of the state budget must be in its people, and the most sensible policy to close the budget gap so that worthy projects and programs can be funded is to reopen our economy. Putting people back to work will bring many benefits for Californians including revenue for the state treasury,” Senator Nielsen added.
Butte County Supervisor Doug Teeter, who lost his house in the Camp Fire and barely escaped the wildfire when he ran into an empty field, is among the local leaders disappointed in the Governor’s decision.
“It baffles my mind that the Governor is proposing cutting promised backfill funding to Paradise Irrigation District which lost 90% of its customer base as a result of the 2018 Camp Fire. The remaining citizens and businesses, even before COVID-19, are not in a position to make up the District’s operating costs on their own. No water = no town.”
“This decision could ultimately cripple the water district and bring the rebuild of Paradise to a screeching halt,” said Kevin Phillips, District Manager of the Paradise Irrigation District. “The District has complied with all of the requirements from the Governor’s office to receive the second year of backfill funding. In doing this, the District put on hold projects that could have been started to help sustain our long-term future. By pulling the funding away, it feels like the state led us down a path only to kick us off the cliff.”
Nielsen and Gallagher noted that it appears the recent shift is political: that the Governor is attempting to use the future of Paradise as part of a strategy to gain Republican support for a massive trillion dollar bailout from the federal government to balance the state budget.
“The Governor wants to wrap all of our woes around his favorite boogeyman: President Trump,” said Gallagher. “I’ve managed to work collaboratively with him in the past - but I am done with power play moves, with my constituents being harassed by his regulators and now being used as political pawns in some sort of leverage strategy. Do the right thing and restore the money now.”