What We're Reading: Top State Stories 12/5

US: Spending on health care rose last year at fastest rate in eight years

Spending on health care rose last year at its fastest rate since 2007, driven by expanded access to insurance under the Affordable Care Act and high-priced specialty drugs. Growth rose 5.8 percent to $3.2 trillion, or $9,990 per person.

NE: Nebraska governor will propose flat budget

Faced with expected declines in state revenue as Nebraska’s agriculture economy struggles with low commodity prices, Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts is building an austere 2017-19 state budget proposal while also driving spending cuts during the rest of the current biennium.

MN: Minnesota forecasts $678 million surplus by end of biennium

Minnesota’s latest state budget forecast shows a projected surplus of $1.4 billion. At current spending and revenue levels, the updated forecast predicts budget surpluses extending to 2021. The current biennium is now projected to end with a balance of $678 million.

TX: Billions in pension shortfalls threatening Texas cities' budgets

Texas’ largest cities — Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio — collectively face $22.6 billion worth of pension fund shortfalls, according to a new report from credit rating and financial analysis firm Moody’s.

NY: For blacks facing parole in New York, signs of a broken system

In New York, black men going before the parole board are at a marked disadvantage. Fewer than one in six black or Hispanic men was released at his first hearing, compared with one in four white men. The disparity extends to small-time offenders, not just the most violent criminals.

MT: 'Belt-tightening time' hits Montana schools

Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock's proposed budget for the 2019 biennium would increase overall funding for Montana’s primary and secondary schools — though it includes a few cuts that make some school districts nervous.

WV: West Virginia state workers to see cuts in health care benefits

West Virginia’s Public Employees Insurance Agency Finance Board approved more than $50 million in cuts in health care benefits for state and public school employees, and many non-state public employees.

SC: South Carolina colleges want $1.1 billion more in state money

South Carolina’s colleges and universities want every penny of the extra money that state lawmakers will have to spend in next year’s budget. And then some, after spending on higher education in the state has lagged since the recession.

CA: California lawmakers want to reform a bail system they say ‘punishes the poor for being poor’

Two lawmakers say they will introduce bills stating the Legislature intends to enact laws that will reduce the number of people detained before trial and address the racial and economic disparities in California’s bail process.

MO: Missouri meth lab seizures off sharply in 2016

The Missouri Highway Patrol reported 172 methamphetamine lab seizures through September, on pace for around 230 for the year. That’s less than half the 507 seizures last year and just a fraction of the peak years for homemade meth in the early 2000s. Meth remains popular, but experts say users are more inclined to buy imported versions.

DC: Washington, D.C., mayor wants tougher screening for homeless shelters

Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser is pushing legislation that would require homeless people who want to take advantage of the District of Columbia’s shelter system to prove that they are not out-of-staters.

CO: Amendment 71 made it harder to get initiatives on the ballot in Colorado

Anyone able to raise enough money and signatures can propose an amendment to Colorado’s Constitution through a ballot initiative — sidestepping the legislative process. But Amendment 71, approved by voters Nov. 8, made that harder to do and perhaps no longer an option for all but the most well-funded organizations.

Native American Addiction Incarcerated Youth