Monday, February 14, 2011

No more raids: Rep. Smith introduces bill to protect Fire Safety Account
by Anne Finn, League of Minnesota Cities

Rep. Steve Smith (R-Mound) last week introduced a bill that would prohibit future raids of the Fire Safety Account, a dedicated fund that provides resources for firefighter training and regional efforts. Last year, against the objections of the League of Minnesota Cities and fire service organizations, over $15 million from the account was diverted for fiscal years 2010 and 2011 to the general fund to aid the state’s ailing budget. HF 474 does not restore the funds that were taken from the account, but it protects the account from future transfers by adding a provision stipulating that funds in the account must be appropriated to the commissioner of public safety for the purposes identified in Minn. Stat. § 299F.012.

The Fire Safety Account was created in 2007, under a statute signed into law by Governor Tim Pawlenty. Homeowners and commercial property owners pay a “fire safety surcharge” of 0.65 percent on insurance premiums. The surcharge, which is listed as a line-item on policyholders’ statements, is deposited into the Fire Safety Account. The account is used for firefighter training, state chemical and decontamination response teams, as well as the State Fire Marshall's office. The average homeowner pays $5.20 into the fund annually.