Firefighters around the state are trying to prevent $9 million in firefighting training funds from being siphoned off to help with the state’s budget crisis.
The training money comes from fire insurance premiums — not tax proceeds — and is distributed by the Legislature, but Gov. Tim Pawlenty says much of the fund balance is surplus and he hopes to tap it for the struggling general fund, says the Albert Lea Tribune.
The firefighters say training is crucial in their line of work, and starting next year, there are new licensing requirements for new hires that will increase the need for training.
It’s a big deal in Albert Lea, the paper said:
“We have to be ready to respond to anything,” said Albert Lea Fire Department Lt. Al Schallock, who is also president of the Local 1041 firefighters union. “If people don’t know who to call, they call the fire department.”
While they are primarily known for responding to fires, firefighters also respond to crashes involving hazardous materials, ice rescues, water rescues and high angle rescues to name a few — all of which provide special training.
If the cuts to the training funds comes on top of additional local government aid reductions, Schallock questioned what Albert Lea would do.
He described it as a “double whammy.”
Already, the Albert Lea Fire Department has not replaced a firefighter who retired last June, he said.
“If we lay off anymore, then we just took a huge step backward,” he said.