Was that Republican Assemblyman Todd "No New Taxes" Spitzer denouncing the state's decision to reduce expenses by cutting off aid to counties for fighting the red fire ant? Funny how reduced government looks good only in someone else's backyard.
Close to half of the $4 million spent on ant-fighting contracts each year normally goes to Orange County, the epicenter of the ant battle and Spitzer's home territory.
With its fast and aggressive campaign against the stinging, crop-devouring insects, the county's Vector Control District has succeeded beyond all expectations in rooting the pill-size beasts from people's yards, using a growth regulator to sterilize the queens and a metabolic inhibitor to keep ants from digesting their food. Many nests remain, though, mostly in well-irrigated commons areas within and around housing developments. Spitzer, a vociferous opponent of raising taxes to balance the budget, says the state Department of Food and Agriculture should "look elsewhere" to make its cuts. Trouble is, the agency's already done that, including scaling back state-line highway inspections to keep out these and other pests.
In Texas, which acted too late with too little, the ants are entrenched, munching through $1 billion in crops a year. No vegans, they also devour the eggs of reptiles and ground birds and thus have devastated the Texas quail population.