Texas Governor Rick Perry– who last month announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination with a promise that he would “work every day to make Washington, DC, as inconsequential in your life as I can”– is criticizing the federal government (i.e., Washington, DC) for “dragging its heels in sending federal taxpayer money and resources to Texas” to help fight the terrible wildfires ravaging the state.
As far back as April, Perry jousted with the White House over federal disaster declarations for an earlier bout of Texas wildfires that destroyed 170 homes across the state. After first denying the application, the Obama administration quietly approved a partial federal disaster declaration on July 1 after an appeal from Perry.
This week, the administration gave seven local disaster declarations to specific Texas counties, but Perry criticized the federal government for not making bulldozers at Fort Hood available to firefighters in nearby Gastrop County. This after the Republican-led Texas Legislature cut volunteer fire department “assistance grants” for equipment like bulldozers by 75 percent this summer to help balance the state budget. In Texas, volunteer firefighters do 80 percent of the wildland firefighting.
A disaster declaration makes an area eligible for federal emergency assistance.
For the record, I agree with Perry on this: if the Obama administration is delaying assistance to Texas for political or other reasons, it’s inexcusable. From what I’ve seen the wildfires, fueled by months of drought, are a genuine calamity. And the federal government needs to do all it reasonably can to help, regardless of the cost. This is not a time for Washington, DC, to be inconsequential.