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How states spend their cash, in 5 maps

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) discusses his budget proposal. (Max Whittaker/Reuters)

States spent more than they made for the third time in four years, according to new Census data.

Collectively, they spent $1.65 trillion in 2012, or about $0.02 trillion more than they collected. Revenues, about half of which came from taxes, were down from the year before due in large part to the expiration of stimulus funds.

Here’s a look at the slice of each state’s spending that went to: welfare, education, health and hospitals, highways and corrections.


In six states, a third or more of all spending went to public welfare.

Tennessee led the pack with 38 percent of general expenditures accounted for by public welfare spending. It was followed by Maine, then New York, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, all of which saw at least one in three dollars spent go to public welfare. Wyoming saw the smallest share of its spending, just 15 percent, go to welfare. 


Education spending exceeded 40 percent in 13 states, led by Indiana (46.3 percent), Georgia (45.7 percent) and Texas (45 percent). It represents 35.8 percent of all state government general expenditures. At 25 percent, education made up the smallest share of spending in Alaska, which is also home to the most per capita revenue.

Health and hospitals

States spent $129.8 billion on health and hospitals, up 3.0 percent from 2011. It represented 7.9 percent of all state general expenditures. The share of spending dedicated to public health and hospitals was largest in Kansas, where it accounted for 12.4 percent of general expenditures. Hawaii was next at 12.3 percent, followed by Missouri at 11.8 percent.


A full 19 percent of spending went to highways in North Dakota, more than in any other state. South Dakota was next at 16.7 percent, followed by Montana where 13.9 percent went to highways.


Corrections account for anywhere from 2 to 4 percent. More than 4 percent of spending went to corrections in Maryland, Virginia, California and Colorado.

Police, natural resources, parks and recreation and government administration

There was little variation on several other measures.

• Virtually every state dedicates about one percent of spending to police protection.
• Most states spend a percent or two on natural resources. The exceptions are: Alaska, Idaho, Louisiana and Nebraska, where it makes up 3 percent of spending; Montana and South Dakota, where it’s 4 percent; North Dakota, where it’s 7 percent; and Wyoming, where it’s 8 percent.
• Most states spend less than a percent on parks and recreation.
• States spend anywhere from 2 to 6 percent on government administration.



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