OKLAHOMA CITY -- Governor Mary Fallin wants to replenish the State Emergency Fund due to the 2011 drought in Oklahoma.
During a press conference Monday, Fallin said replenishing the fund will be one of her priorities in the next legislative session.
The fund reimburses counties, municipalities, rural electric cooperatives, rural water districts and other entities for infrastructure damage sustained under a presidential disaster declaration.
While the emergency fund was created to lessen the fiscal impact of tornadoes, hurricanes, wild fires and other natural disasters, the state is several years behind in its payments. The current balance stands at $944.00, with outstanding obligations totaling more than $36 million. The state has not reimbursed local entities for any disasters occurring after 2007, despite numerous disaster declarations.
"The weather has made this a tough year for many in Oklahoma," Fallin said. "Ice storms, tornadoes, fires, and drought have hit our local communities hard, and many are stretched thin by the cost of relief and recovery efforts. It is not fair for the state of Oklahoma to ignore its obligations when towns and cities are struggling to find the money to pay for firefighters, police and basic services. That's why I'm calling on our legislators to make replenishing the State Emergency Fund a priority next year."
In the event of a presidential disaster declaration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency reimburses municipalities and other qualifying entities for 75 percent of the cost of any infrastructure damage. The State of Oklahoma covers 12.5 percent of that cost using the State Emergency Fund, and the qualifying entity covers 12.5 percent.
Governor Fallin also said due to the recent rain and improving conditions, changes to the statewide burn ban are expected to be announced in the next 24 to 48 hours with at least some counties coming off the ban.
"We are still in the process of evaluating the conditions on the ground with the state Forestry division, but we do expect to be able to make some modifications to the burn ban in the next one to two days," Fallin said. "We understand the burn ban can be a major inconvenience to citizens, but we want to make sure we are putting safety first.