State Spending and Services

State Spending and Services

This section describes how the state spends its money. This picture looks considerably different depending on whether we look at appropriations–the spending authorized each year by the Legislature–or total spending from appropriations, federal funds, and dedicated funds combined.


This graph shows how state appropriations are divided among the major functions of government. The major functions supported by state appropriations–from largest to smallest–are:

  • Education: Just over half of all appropriations, $3.4 billion in FY ‘17, are allocated to education services, including funding for local K-12 education, the state higher education system, vocational-technical education, and other cultural and educational activities.
  • Health and Social Services functions are the second largest use of appropriations; at $2.2 billion in FY ’17, they receive just under one-third of appropriations. The health and social service agencies help fund basic health and security for those who cannot fully do so on their own. Much of this funding is used to match federal grants for health insurance and for social service programs.
  • Public Safety received $737 million in FY ’17 appropriations. Funds are appropriated to operate the state’s prison system and law enforcement agencies that patrol highways, combat illegal drug use, and investigate and prosecute crimes.
  • General Government and Transportation: Appropriations to general government agencies–those that support and regulate the operations of all other agencies—and the Department of Transportation total approximately $299 million in FY ‘17.
  • Natural Resources and Regulatory Agencies received $109 million in appropriations in FY ’17 for a variety of purposes mostly related to economic development, economic regulation and the environment.
  • The “Other” FY ’17 appropriation is $10 million for the Rural Economic Action Program (REAP) to finance community development in rural areas and small towns.


The division of funds looks different when we examine all state spending, not just appropriations. Please note that while the previous discussion was on planned spending for FY ’17 and was based on the appropriations bill passed by the Legislature, the total expenditure data is from the U.S. Bureau of the Census and reflects actual spending in FY 2013,  the most recent data available.

Health and social services, at $7.3 billion in 2013, makes up over one third of total state spending. In addition to their substantial appropriations of state funds, health and social service agencies spend more federal funds than any other agency type. The $3.9 billion spent on education makes it the second largest function in terms of overall state spending.

After health and social services and education, insurance trusts are the third largest function measured by total spending. The $2.5 billion spent by these agencies in 2013 represents 13 percent of all state spending. These agencies receive no appropriations; their spending is supported by federal funds and contributions by those who benefit from the insurance and retirement programs these agencies operate.

All other services use one-fourth of total state spending, or $5.0 billion in 2013. In addition to appropriations, major funding for these functions-transportation, public safety, environment and housing, utilities and others-comes from federal highway funds and fees from users.

You can follow the Guide for more information on each of the state’s major service areas. Each service area section includes an overview of the goals we seek to accomplish; an assessment of what we have accomplished and how well we are maintaining the public investments involved, and a description of the major appropriated and non-appropriated agencies that perform these services.

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