Pluribus AM: State spending hits new high

Good morning, it’s Wednesday, December 6, 2023. In today’s edition, states spend record sums, but the good times won’t last; 11.8 million lose Medicaid coverage; Texas special session sputters to an end:

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BUDGETS: States spent a record $2.96 trillion last year as federal funds left over from the Covid pandemic boost state budgets. State spending is more than 40% higher than pre-pandemic levels, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers. Health care and education account for about 60% of overall state spending. (Pluribus News)

Remember these heady days. The good times won’t last forever — and states like California and New York, were cuts are already necessary, are previews of what’s to come everywhere else.

HEALTH CARE: About 11.8 million people have been unenrolled in Medicaid through Dec. 1, and a new poll shows 58% of Medicaid enrollees have heard little or nothing about their state’s efforts to redetermine eligibility. More than seven in ten people who have lost coverage have done so for procedural reasons, like failing to finish paperwork. (Pluribus News)

EDUCATION: Texas legislators adjourned their fourth special session of the year without taking action on school vouchers and safety funding, as House and Senate members failed to reach a deal. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has threatened to call a fifth special session, though the timing — and whether another session would break the impasse — is unclear. (Texas Tribune)

ABORTION: Dane County Circuit Court Judge Diane Schlipper has reaffirmed her ruling that an 1849 law does not ban abortion in Wisconsin, setting the stage for a fight before the state Supreme Court. Schlipper ruled the old law does not apply to consensual medical abortions. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Associated Press)

TRANSPORTATION: The Biden administration has awarded more than $6 billion to high-speed rail projects that will connect Las Vegas to Los Angeles, and Los Angeles to San Francisco. The federal money for the California project will help close a $10 billion gap in funding through the Central Valley. Money for the Las Vegas-bound project will allow work to begin along the I-15 corridor. (Associated Press)

ELECTRIC VEHICLES: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has signed an executive order requiring state government to convert its fleet of cars and trucks to zero-emission vehicles by 2040. Michigan has more than 8,000 vehicles in its fleet, only three of which are electric at the moment. (Detroit News)

WORKFORCE: Michigan Gov. Whitmer is considering two bills that would create “medication aides,” employees at skilled nursing facilities who would be tasked with dispensing routine medications to patients. The new position, between an entry-level nursing assistant and a licensed nurse, would help alleviate workforce shortages at nursing facilities. Lawmakers approved bills creating the new job in bipartisan votes. (Bridge MI)

MORE: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) proposed eliminating more than 1,000 state jobs in his annual budget, released Tuesday. The $114.4 billion budget would also slash taxes by $1 billion. (Associated Press)

HOUSING: Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) has proposed a $29.5 billion budget that includes $128 million for emergency shelters to house the state’s homeless population, $10 million for the housing preservation fund and $30 million for affordable housing. Cox has set a goal of building 35,000 starter homes by 2028. (Salt Lake Tribune)

MARIJUANA: Ohio House members are pushing back on Senate Republican plans to eliminate home-grown marijuana under Issue 2, the ballot measure that won 57% of the vote in November. Republicans and Democrats in the state House said they would resist the Senate’s efforts to raise tax rates on legal pot. (Ohio Capital Journal)

Issue 2, and legal recreational marijuana, takes effect tomorrow.

In Politics & Business

TRUMP: The Colorado Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit seeking to block former President Donald Trump from the ballot over the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. A district court judge in Denver previously ruled that Trump engaged in insurrection, but that the 14th Amendment did not apply to candidates for president. (Denver Post)

DEMOCRATS: The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee said Wednesday it would begin investing tens of thousands of dollars in legislative races in Michigan, Arizona, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. (The Hill)

Democrats are defending narrow majorities in Michigan, aiming to win majorities in narrowly-divided New Hampshire, Arizona and Pennsylvania, and hoping to cut into big GOP majorities in North Carolina and Wisconsin.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) has raised $2.74 million in her bid to replace retiring Gov. Chris Sununu (R). Ayotte has $2.34 million left in the bank. (WMUR) Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington (D) raised just over $1 million since entering the race in June. Her campaign has $675,000 on hand. (WMUR)

GEORGIA: The General Assembly has given final approval to new legislative district lines that would cement GOP control while creating new majority-Black districts in the House and Senate. The new maps protect every Senate incumbent and hand Democrats a net gain of two House seats. The Senate approved new congressional district lines that would preserve the GOP’s 9-5 advantage in the U.S. House. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

By The Numbers

-0.3%: The decline in traffic deaths recorded in 2022, down only slightly from the record 42,939 deaths recorded in 2021. (Pluribus News)

246: The number of days Texas lawmakers have met this year, including four special sessions. That’s the highest number of days in session in a single year since Texas became a state in 1845. (Texas Tribune)

Off The Wall

Florida Gov. DeSantis’s new budget proposal would set aside $1 million for Florida State University to sue the College Football Playoff Committee. The committee left FSU out of the four-team playoff picture in favor of two one-loss teams, even though the Seminoles notched a perfect season. (Associated Press)

Minnesota’s State Emblems Redesign Commission has voted to adopt a new state seal that includes a loon, a North Star and the state motto, “L’Etoile du Nord,” or Star of the North. The commission voted unanimously for the new design, one of more than 3,000 submitted by state residents. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

An Ohio woman who threw a chicken burrito bowl in the face of a worker at Chipotle has been sentenced to work 20 hours per week in a fast food restaurant. The woman agreed to the unusual plea deal to reduce her jail sentence to 60 days. (Washington Post)

Quote of the Day

“People are still living under, you know, Three Mile Island from the time when I was a kid.”

Florida House Speaker Paul Renner (R), on the challenges of bringing back nuclear energy as he considers a major energy reform package. (Florida Politics)