Perspective: The Governor’s Emergency Management Budget Proposal to the Legislature – January 2019

By John Ufford

The Governor’s budget came out in early December and there are some interesting proposals to emergency management activities across the multiple activity areas. Not everything impacting emergency management is within the General Government area, where the Emergency Management Division (EMD)resides for budget purposes. There are parts sprinkled throughout the budget from multiple agency stakeholders. While supporting some of what was needed, many projects and programs did not make the Governor’s Budget. As we know, the state has the second highest risk to earthquakes in the nation, yet minimal funding is allocated toward doing the many things necessary for a 21st century society to minimize the many cascading hazards associated with earthquakes and return rapidly to a level of society that exceeds that of the late 19th century for services. The need exceeds what is proposed.

A closer look at the budget shows the following projects and activities resident within the Military Department that constitute a small start to what a Resilient Washington could accomplish. (NOTE: Resilient Washington is a joint private/public report and 50-year pathway toward resiliency.)

  • ShakeAlert Monitoring Stations: $5M general fund-state for procurement and installation of 83 seismic monitoring stations and global navigation satellite systems that integrate with the early warning system in Oregon and California. EMD coordinates implementation actions with the University of Washington.
  • ShakeAlert Public Outreach: $240,000 for an education and public outreach program in advance of the ShakeAlert early earthquake warning system. This FTE integrates ShakeAlert and the 2-Week-Ready messages since they are so closely related.
  • Hazardous Materials Program: $1.04M of General Fund-State to continue assisting local emergency planning committees statewide with hazardous materials plans that meet minimum federal requirements. This continues the program mandated by the Legislature for the 15-17 and 17-19 biennia. The bad news is that the Governor’s budget only approves this funding for the 19-21 biennium. EMD will have to continue to negotiate the fund source for future biennia.
  • School Catastrophic Preparedness: $1,000,000 of General Fund State to collaborate with schools and school districts statewide in the development, planning, and exercise of catastrophic preparedness and emergency response plans. Initial work shall be prioritized based on the risk level of known natural and other hazards. EMD originally requested funding for 18 FTEs (for a total of $4,832,000) for a more comprehensive catastrophic preparedness effort, but the Governor requested a scale back and focus on catastrophic preparedness for schools. This $1,000,000 funds four FTEs who will coordinate with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). EMD indicates they will collaborate with local emergency managers to determine how best to implement this program if it is funded by the legislature.
  • Tsunami Sirens for Coastal Cities: $928,000 of General Fund State to procure and install 16 all-hazard alert broadcast (AHAB) sirens to increase inundation zone coverage (current 68 sirens in place). AHAB sirens will alert individuals of an impending tsunami or other disaster within a 1.5 mile radius.
  • Disaster Response Account: $38,535,000 (full funding as requested) to recover from past disasters. This is used as the state match for federal disaster assistance support.
  • Enhanced 9-1-1/ Next Generation: $9,975,000 (full funding as requested from the 911 Account-State) to enable the agency to finish the transition to and operate the new Next Generation 911 network, which will be more resilient and provide advanced capabilities including text to 911, improved location accuracy, and the ability to transmit data and video.
  • Provide National Guard wildfire pay increase: Align state active duty wages for service members with firefighter certifications in wildfire suppression activities to those of their peers and align the hourly wage floor to the state minimum wage from 1.5 times the federal minimum wage for all other activities. ($750,000 GF-S).

Note: All totals are biennial totals.

Not all EMD requests were funded in the Governor’s budget. The following items were not part of the Governor’s request to the legislature.

  • Resilient Emergency Communications. The State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) Alert and Warning Center database replacement in 2018 was accomplished with existing resources, but EMD needs to come up with a new strategy for the other items to modernize various aspects of the SEOC communications systems that are now over 20 years old.
  • Individual Assistance Program. This state program would have filled a gap for helping people in the state when a federal human service declaration was not received.
  • Critical Infrastructure Program. A state initiative to build resiliency within critical infrastructure.
  • FirstNet. The program will transfer from Consolidated Technology Services (WATech) to EMD without state funding. It can continue on federal grant funds until early 2020. EMD will need to ask again for funding in the supplemental budget.

Other emergency management or homeland security related items in the Governor’s budget proposal include:

  • Department of Commerce — Statewide Broadband Office. Create a Statewide Broadband Office to serve as the central planning and coordinating body for public and private efforts to deploy broadband. The office will promote economic vitality and meet the needs of the state’s education, health care and public safety systems through greater broadband access. It will act as an information clearinghouse and set high-level statewide broadband policy to spur private investment and build local capacity. ($1.2 million General Fund-State) Meanwhile, the governor’s capital budget includes $25 million for a competitive broadband grant and loan program to be administered by the Public Works Board. For more information, see Capital Budget section below.
  • State Auditor’s Office — Increase cybersecurity audits Conduct cybersecurity audits for state agencies and local governments. These audits help to assess security controls and identify weaknesses in security systems. ($2.8 million Performance Audits of Government Account).
  • Department of Enterprise Services — Cyber insurance for small agencies. Purchase cyber incident insurance for 43 small and medium-sized agencies now without insurance to mitigate the impact of potential cyber risks. ($200,000 GF-S)

  • Consolidated Technology Services (WaTech) — Computer Emergency Readiness Team. Meet demand and resolve a workload backlog on independent third-party cybersecurity risk assessments of state agency systems and applications to identify vulnerabilities, opportunities for system hardening and issues. CERT is the state’s central cyber defense, incident response and security operations center. ($1 million Consolidated Technology Services Revolving Account).
  • Ecology — Chemical action plan implementation. Identify the sources of the worst chemicals reaching the environment and develop recommendations on how to reduce or eliminate those sources. ($3.7 million Local Toxics Control Account). Ecology also asks that $20M of expenses currently in the Model Toxics Control Account be shifted to General Fund – State to relieve projected deficits in the account.
  • Department of Natural Resources and Department of Fish and Wildlife — Forest hazard reduction. Reduce severe wildfire risk and increase forest resiliency through fuels reduction, thinning, fuel break creation and prescribed burning. ($18.2 million bonds).
  • Capital Budget Section — Broadband access is essential for full participation in society and the modern economy. People rely on internet service to access health care and other essential services, obtain an education and build careers. Businesses need the internet to market themselves and serve customers. Broadband can also help first responders get quickly to residents in an emergency. Yet too many Washingtonians, especially in the most rural parts of the state, lack access to affordable broadband service.

There is a pressing need for broadband coordination and planning at the state level, along with funding to boost broadband access and deployment in unserved and underserved communities.

Gov. Inslee’s 2019–21 operating budget includes funding for a Statewide Broadband Office to serve as the central planning and coordinating body for public and private efforts to deploy broadband. The office will promote economic vitality and meet the needs of the state’s education, health care and public safety systems through greater broadband access. It will act as an information clearinghouse and set high-level statewide broadband policy to spur private investment and build local capacity. ($1.2 million, GF-S)

  • The governor’s budget also includes separate capital funding to establish a competitive grant and loan program to be administered by the Public Works Board. The board will distribute funds to applicants for the acquisition, installation and construction of infrastructure to deliver broadband services to unserved and underserved people. The board may also award funding for feasibility studies and strategic planning for deploying broadband service in unserved and underserved areas. ($17.5 million bonds; $7.5 million Public Works Assistance Account).

Please remember that these decisions are not final. The Governor’s budget represents his priorities, but we won’t know the final budgetary changes until we see what the Legislature passes in the Enacted Budgets in the spring. Let’s hope for additional emphasis on programs that move the state towards a more complete and rapid movement towards full resiliency.

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