The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

State-level spending grew last year, thanks largely to Obamacare

State spending last year grew at its fastest pace since before the recession, thanks mostly to an infusion of spending through Obamacare.

Overall, spending was up 5.7 percent in fiscal 2014, according to a new report from the National Association of State Budget Officers. That’s up from 2.2 percent the year before and 1.1 percent before that.

A big reason for the sudden spike were the hotly controversial funds available to states to expand Medicaid, NASBO found. Medicaid funds grew by $41.8 billion, while all other federal funds to states were scaled back by about $3.4 billion.

“The large increase in total state expenditures doesn’t mean that states are flush with cash because the monies they get from their own fund sources have only increased slightly due to modest economic growth,” NASBO Executive Director Scott Pattison said in a statement accompanying the report. “The increase seen in total state expenditures is heavily tied to increased federal Medicaid funds so states don’t actually have a lot of additional money to fund other priorities like education or infrastructure.”

Medicaid accounts for a fifth of state spending

More than 25 percent of all state spending goes to Medicaid, according to NASBO, with K-12 education account for nearly 20 percent and higher education account for roughly 10 percent. But when it comes to their own funds, K-12 spending dominates among states, accounting for 1 in every 4 dollars spent.

States have become increasingly reliant on federal money

In fiscal 2008, roughly 46 percent of overall spending came from their own general funds and 26 percent came from federal funds. By fiscal 2014, it’s estimated that general funds now account for just over 40 percent of total spending, while federal funds account for more than 30 percent of spending.

Public assistance spending shrank

State spending rose in every spending category but one: public assistance. While education, Medicaid, corrections, transportation and all other categories grew by at least 3.7 percent, public assistance shrank by 1.4 percent.