The Camp Fire destroyed homes and lives across Butte County. It also wiped out local governments' ability to pay for basic functions, from repairing roads and water lines to rebuilding classrooms and other basic infrastructure that burned.
Two bills proposed this week at the state Capitol seek to help with that long-term recovery. The first, AB 41, would increase the share of state funding for debris removal. The second, AB 42, would replace tax revenue lost by local governments due to the fire.
Republican Asm. James Gallagher, who represents Butte County, said the legislation would help towns like Paradise, where thousands of homes burned, with needed revenue. Everything from schools to county snow plows were lost in Paradise, which experienced the greatest losses in the Camp Fire, the most deadly and destructive fire in California’s history.
“Their tax base has been completely depleted,” Gallagher said. “And we’re trying to provide some backfill so that they can plan the recovery effort up there and keep the lights on, so to speak. Before you can have homes and people living there has to be potable water, there has to be electricity restored, all of these utilities and backbone infrastructure.”
Butte County Supervisor Bill Connelly said, “we’re out of luck right now.”
“Think about your police and firemen that we have to keep on the job and we don’t have the income coming in,” Connelly said. “So, this is to help alleviate the pain for a while, get us back on our feet.”
The county government lost road repair equipment, snow plows and sanding machines when its equipment yard was destroyed.
“We need to build that infrastructure up so we can keep the roads safe,” the supervisor said.
Butte County Superintendent of Schools Tim Taylor said the state proposals are welcome news.
“FEMA and our insurance companies are looking at helping us with the temporary locations of schools,” Taylor said. "In the long term city planning, things really need to be coordinated well. The infrastructure has to be there to run our schools.
He added that tons of concrete must be removed and soil cleaned before crews can build on the destroyed school sites.
Republican State Sen. Jim Nielsen, who also represents the area, said the state should use its multi-billion dollar surplus to help the region with its long-term recovery.
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