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Firefighters criticize Pawlenty's use of $10M in training money

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A coalition representing the state's 20,000 firefighters is criticizing Gov. Pawlenty for using nearly $10 million in training money to help balance the state's budget.

The firefighters say the money comes from a surcharge on fire insurance policies which were created in 2006 to help improve firefighter training across the state. Isanti Fire Chief Randy Polzin said Pawlenty's decision to take the money means firefighters won't be properly trained to handle emergency situations.

"While claiming to protect public safety, Gov. Pawlenty is doing the exact opposite," Polzin said. "His actions endanger public safety. His actions endanger fire fighters by preventing them from being properly trained and equipped. Gov. Pawlenty can't have it both ways."

Pawlenty is proposing a mix of spending cuts, one-time money and a pot of federal money that isn't even available yet to erase a $1.2 billion budget deficit. DFLers in control of the Legislature have not released their budget plan yet.

A spokesman for the governor says Pawlenty recognizes there are some difficult reductions in his budget balancing plan, but the training fund was running a surplus and even after the governor uses it there will be $6 million for firefighter training and other uses during this budget period.