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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Firefighting Costs Burn Hole In Washington State Budget

Kari Greer
File photo of the Wolverine fire in north central Washington state. The state was hit by a record-breaking fire season in 2015.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee will roll out his proposed update to the state’s two-year budget on Thursday. One of the chief spending items will be paying for last summer’s fire season.

More than a million acres of forest, sagebrush and wildlands burned in Washington in 2015. It was a record-breaker.

“This is unprecedented costs that we’re faced with,” said David Schumacher, Governor Inslee’s budget director. He said the cost of fighting those fires helped burned a hole in Washington’s two-year balanced budget -- a budget that’s now $500 million in the red.

“About $170 million of the $500 million come just from fires,” Schumacher said.

The supplemental budget needs to cover those costs. But that alone won’t satisfy state Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark. He’s asking for additional money to better prepare for the 2016 fire season.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."