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Weekly wrap: Rising Medicaid bill a growing concern for states

New Mexico may foreshadow a Medicaid crisis facing states next year as the federal economic stimulus money dwindles. During a recent PowerPoint presentation by New Mexico Human Services Secretary Pam Hyde to state lawmakers, she said the state's Medicaid program could be facing a shortfall of up to $300 million by 2011 unless costs are contained. The stimulus money will be gone by then, she stressed in an interview with The New Mexico Independent.

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States draw down rainy day funds

or Maine Gov. John Baldacci (D), the convergence of bad economic times and a depleted state emergency savings account is a familiar experience. When Baldacci stepped into office in 2003, he inherited a recession-battered economy and an empty reserve account, also known as a rainy day fund. As a result, he and the Legislature faced the daunting task of closing a $1.2 billion budget hole without a financial cushion to absorb any of the shortfall.

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Cities, states wrangle over cuts to local aid

In Minnesota, Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty's cuts in state funding to local government forced cities and counties to consider their own round of layoffs, furloughs and benefit freezes. State reductions were so troubling in Massachusetts that three cities are now deciding whether to cancel their primary elections to conserve cash.

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Budget cuts drive states’ DMV changes

Drivers going to the department of motor vehicles will likely face longer lines and higher service fees in several states as recession-ravaged budgets force the shutdown of branch offices, a reduced work force and the need to raise revenue.

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Budgets overshadow social, political highlights

The national economy may have dominated the 2009 state legislative session, but history was also made both politically and on the social policy front. Many expected 2009 to be quiet in state political circles before the surge of 37 gubernatorial races in 2010, but the year will go down as one of the most explosive with the removal of Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) in Illinois, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's (R) surprising decision to step down before her term ended and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's (R) admission to an extramarital affair.

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Most states plug budget holes, for now

This year's state legislative session will go down as one of the most brutal in recent memory as the national recession forced lawmakers to find money to cover a staggering $215 billion in estimated budget gaps for 2009 and 2010 - the equivalent of more than $700 for every man, woman and child in the country.

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Sales tax breaks erode state revenues

As shoppers in 15 states rush to buy tax-free clothing and school supplies this August, some lawmakers are experiencing buyer's remorse: Their "sales-tax holidays" are pinching revenues at a time when state coffers are hurting.

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States make deep cuts to health

Although states are facing their worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression, 14 found the dollars this year to increase health coverage for about 250,000 children. That's one of the few bright spots for health within state budgets in a year in which all but a handful of states faced shortfalls and were forced to shrink taxpayer-financed programs.

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