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Editorial: Pawlenty's fire-safety fund raid is bad idea

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opinion Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

Minnesota firefighters are crying foul at one of Gov. Tim Pawlenty's proposed budget balance moves -- a government switch-a-roo.

Pawlenty has proposed as part of his supplemental budget a plan to raid a fire-safety training fund and transfer nearly $10 million over two years to the general fund.

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This is not a good idea, especially for rural and city volunteer fire departments.

If fact, this training fund raid could actually endanger the safety and expearience of Minnesota's 20,000-plus firefighters and the citizens they serve as well.

Minnesota volunteer firefighters not only battle fires in the state, but also often are among the first responders to accidents and/or medical emergencies. Continued fire safety training is needed throughout the state.

The fire safety account is a specialty revenue account generated by a 0.65 percent surcharge on homeowner and commercial insurance policies since 2006. The fund's specific purpose was to help pay and support fire-safety training.

This training support is critical, especially in rural township and small city departments where most training budgets are limited.

Pawlenty supported this fire-safety training surcharge when it was implemented in 2006 for this specific purpose.

Now he wants to gut the fire-safety training fund generated by Minnesota insurance surcharges. This move would short-circuit firefighter training around the state.

This Pawlenty budget switch-a-roo that simply a bone-headed proposal. The Legislature should reject it. It is bad budget proposal, which puts Minnesotans and firefighters unnecessarily at risk.

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