Commentary

Zika virus worries? NC’s mosquito program eliminated thanks to budget cuts

Mark Binker at WRAL.com has a story this afternoon that offers a classic example of what happens when the policies enacted (and driven) by tax cut zealots cause public structures to be dismantled:

— North Carolina lacks the ability to track and combat the spread of mosquitoes as the Zika virus that has been blamed for brain-damaged babies in Brazil makes its way into the United States, according to the state’s chief epidemiologist.

“Our biggest limitation is that mosquito surveillance and control is very limited in this state,” Megan Davies, epidemiology section chief in the North Carolina Division of Public Health told the Joint Legislative Emergency Management Oversight Committee on Thursday. “There used to be funding for localities to do mosquito control that is no longer available.”

Two different programs aimed at controlling mosquitoes and other pests were pared back, and then finally eliminated, under Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat, and Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, as both governors and the General Assembly struggled to get a hold on budget shortfalls that were symptoms of the recession.

In 2010, Perdue and the Democratic majority in the General Assembly made the first cut to grants that helped local governments control mosquitoes. In 2011, a Republican-controlled General Assembly voted to eliminate the “vector control program,” which monitored and analyzed the spread of mosquitoes as part of what is now the Department of Environmental Quality. The last of the mosquito control grants for local governments were eliminated in 2014.”

And while the story notes that Bev Perdue presided over the beginning of the program cuts, it should be noted that she did this in an environment in which conservatives were fighting her tooth and nail over every effort she made to find new revenues to pay for important programs. And clearly, it was the current conservative leaders who finished the program off.

The bottom line: The cuts to the mosquito program are emblematic of the disinvestment in all sorts of essential — often life-saving — public structures that conservatives have pushed on North Carolina in recent years. Think about that fact this summer when you’re lathering up with extra bug spray and ask yourself what would make you feel a greater sense of “freedom”: a few bucks in income tax cuts or the knowledge that public servants were working hard to protect you and your loved ones from a dangerous disease?

One Comment


  1. HunterC

    February 12, 2016 at 9:22 am

    Is there a link provided to your July 3, 2014 story on this very topic?

    Seems like that story in 2014 was right on target.

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