Public Health Official: More State Cuts Could Delay Disease Warnings

Feb 21, 2012

WaOLYMPIA, Wash. – The Washington legislature has three weeks to rebalance the state budget. One way House Democrats propose to do that is to eliminate a series of payments that currently go to cities and counties. That proposal emerged Tuesday. Reaction from local governments was swift.

Let’s take public health as an example. These are the people who encourage you to wash your hands. But they also monitor for communicable disease outbreaks and help poor women get prenatal care. Already, local public health agencies in Washington have taken nearly $400 million in cuts.

Now, House Democrats propose another round of reductions. In return, they’d give cities and counties new taxing authority.

John Wiesman runs Clark County Public Health in Vancouver. He’s skeptical that local taxes could replace dedicated state funds.

“In Clark County it will be very difficult for us as a border county with a state that doesn’t have a sales tax," Wiesman says. "And in many communities in this state we just simply can’t raise much money with a sales tax increase.”

Wiesman warns that further cuts could even lead to delays in identifying disease outbreaks. And that, he says, could result in unnecessary deaths.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network