The single largest budget item is public schools, consuming almost two-fifths of the entire pie. Here, state government taxes you to send money to local schools, to supplement the property taxes you pay.
Health and Human Services takes up another 30 percent. To oversimplify, the state takes your tax money and redistributes it to those less fortunate.
Nine percent to PTAC (property tax aid and credits), to oversimplify, state government is redistributing money amongst local governments.
Together, those four items make up 85 percent of the state budget. All those things that you think that state government exists for — running state agencies, the courts, the prisons, etc. — are squeezed into the remaining 15 percent of the total.
One caveat: transportation appears so low because roads and bridges are largely paid for using gas taxes and car registration fees.
And when the big budget surplus is announced tomorrow, you’ll get to re-discover that state government takes in more than it needs and won’t return the difference.