GIVE

2010 Proposed Cuts in State Aid for Mosquito Control - Round 2

At the October 20, 2009 meeting of the Florida Coordinating Council on Mosquito Control, Mr. Steven Dwinell, Assistant Director of the DACS Division of Agriculture and Environmental Services advised the Council of the Division’s proposed budget recommendations for 2010. The Division is again recommending draconian cuts in State aid to mosquito control that are essentially the same as those the Division unsuccessfully sought in 2009. Mr. Dwinell was asked what had changed since last year that would lead the Division to believe it would be successful in getting such a recommendation passed when it failed in 2009 due to the overwhelming opposition from both Florida mosquito control professionals and State legislators in Tallahassee. Mr. Dwinell stated that nothing had changed, though the Division felt that programs that impact public health might be cut to protect programs involved with public safety.

In the words of Yogi Berra, “This is like déjà vu all over again.”

Are we to go over the same ground covered in 2009 on the importance of the Florida State aid to mosquito control? Readers can revisit several Buzzwords articles on the subject in past issues referenced below. Have we learned anything at all from the 2009 experience? Where are we going on this issue? Why do we continue to have this same discussion with the Division and with our legislators in Tallahassee? "You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there." ‐‐ Yogi Berra

The Division’s recommendation to reduce the State aid budget to mosquito control makes no sense. The Division’s recommendation, reducing State aid by more than 40% and reducing the mosquito research budget by $25,000, fosters the delusion that the current paltry budget has been adequate for protecting Florida from mosquitoes and mosquito‐borne diseases and that the proposed cuts to this budget will have little impact. This is far from the truth, and a delusion. State funds in support of mosquito control have remained flat for more than 20 years. No increases at all to adjust for inflation. Nothing. How many State programs can make this claim? Each year the State aid mosquito control program has already been cut in what it can deliver due to losses to inflation. At 3% annual inflation the losses to the program in 20 years is at least $1,500,000! Like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), State support for mosquito control has been whittled away and now huge pieces will be hacked off. For how long should Florida mosquito control be expected to act like the Black Knight?

BlackNight

The DACS Division of Agriculture and Environmental Services continues to offer up State aid for mosquito control as their sole means for all budget cuts to the Division despite the strenuous opposition of Florida mosquito control professionals and Florida legislators. It appears that in the Division’s view, any budget cuts to the Division, large or small, will likely be borne by mosquito control. What will be left of mosquito control? “It’s just a flesh wound” –The Black Knight.

In these difficult economic times Florida continues to be threatened by mosquito‐borne diseases like dengue, West Nile, eastern equine encephalitis, and St. Louis encephalitis and can ill‐afford the health and economic consequences of a vector‐borne disease outbreak. Cutting the already inadequate State mosquito control budget is patently irresponsible. The threat of a wider dengue outbreak then that recently reported in Key West is real. Chikungunya is a real threat. Rift Valley fever and bioterrorism are all real dangers. Reducing the already paltry State aid is going in the wrong direction and is simply unacceptable.

Consider the importance of State aid to mosquito control as it is currently used: the mosquito control research program that provides information to improve mosquito control, aid to districts to support training, communications with other districts, ability to acquire essential materials not supported using local funds, and many more. The paltry State funds in support of the mosquito control research program have remained flat for more than 20 years. Each year the research selection committee does a Herculean job in determining which of the many proposed projects will receive support. This program has provided essential information that has improved Florida’s mosquito‐borne disease surveillance capabilities, improved mosquito control operations, improved vector control effectiveness, efficiency and environmental propriety of adulticiding and larviciding, characterized non‐target effects, to name just a few. However, the funds for the program have been inadequate resulting in many projects not being supported despite their importance. These include projects to characterize habitats conducive to container mosquitoes like Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus that would have considerably improved control capabilities in Key West during the recent dengue outbreak. Other projects include better surveillance tools, improved mosquito traps to use for surveillance and control, improved methods to reduce non‐target effects, improved knowledge on mosquito biology for priority pest and vector mosquitoes including vector ability and insecticide resistance. There have been many lost opportunities due to the small amount of funds in the mosquito control research budget. The Division recommendation includes a $25,000 (10%) budget reduction in the research funds. This may seem like a small amount to the Division. It is not in terms of Florida’s research needs. It is the difference in being able to support currently unfunded projects. Mosquito control research is not a luxury that can be dispelled with without dire consequences to the well‐being of Florida. It is troubling that there has not ever been an analogous recommendation by the Division to increase the research program.

There are other high priority needs that State aid to mosquito control can support. To name a few:

  • The Federal support of the Florida sentinel surveillance testing program is being reduced jeopardizing Florida’s ability to continue this fundamental tool that has served Florida so well in protecting the State against West Nile, St. Louis encephalitis and eastern equine encephalitis viruses.
  • Florida’s two State‐funded mosquito control research laboratories have seen their operational funds eroded to dangerously low levels.
  • Training opportunities like the Dodd Short courses, various workshops, and attendance at the FMCA annual meeting which are essential to maintaining a professional workforce.

These needs are essential to maintaining State wide Florida mosquito control and therefore these should be considered as appropriate uses for the State aid for mosquito control collected through the waste tire tax.

So where are we going? Apparently, 2009 was only Round 1, and unfortunately we are now at the beginning of Round 2. Florida mosquito control professionals concerned about the future of their profession in Florida should continue to take an active role in these discussions with their colleagues throughout the State, through FMCA, through attending and participating in discussions with the Division at meetings of the Florida Coordinating Council on Mosquito Control, with their local legislators, and of course through participation in this year’s FMCA Tallahassee Days in March.

Florida mosquito control is unfortunately in the unenviable position of again having to expend resources in time, labor, and money to protect this essential program from imprudent draconian cuts. It is our professional responsibility to continue to point out our disagreements with the Division’s recommendations to those with responsibility for making the final decisions. This very bad recommendation by the Division continues to resurface year after year and it needs to be buried once and for all. Previous BuzzWords Articles that discuss the State Aid for Mosquito Control budget can be accessed at: http://fmel.ifas.ufl.edu/buzz/archive.shtml

Tabachnick, WJ. 2008. Florida mosquito control research program, BuzzWords Newsletter of the FMCA. 8(2):6‐7.

Tabachnick, WJ. 2008. Meeting of Florida vector‐borne disease scientists, BuzzWords, Newsletter of the FMCA. 8(3): 4‐5.

Tabachnick, WJ. 2008. The importance of Florida Mosquito Control Association's Tallahassee days. BuzzWords, Newsletter of the FMCA. 8(4): 7‐8

Tabachnick, WJ. 2008. Florida’s state support budget for mosquito control: Tough times may undermine Florida public health. BuzzWords, Newsletter of the FMCA. 8(6): 8‐11.

Tabachnick, WJ. 2009. Florida mosquito control during the Florida budget crisis. BuzzWords, Newsletter of the Florida Mosquito Control Association 9(1): 10‐11.

Tabachnick, WJ. 2009. Cutting Florida’s state support for mosquito control. BuzzWords, Newsletter of the Florida Mosquito Control Association 9(2): 7‐10.

Walter J. Tabachnick, Ph.D.
Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory
Professor, Department of Entomology and Nematology
University of Florida, IFAS
Vero Beach, Florida