Across the country, state budgets are back in the black after years of belt-tightening and spending cuts. From California to Florida, in nearly every state, the economic recovery has produced a surge in tax revenue.
For governors and state legislators, that's produced a new question: how to spend the money.
The past three years have not been easy ones for elected officials. Nearly every state requires them to produce a balanced budget. And with declining revenue from sales, property and income taxes, that has meant big spending cuts.
Roughly one in four cellphone towers in the path of Hurricane Sandy went out of service. It was a frustrating and potentially dangerous experience for customers without a landline to fall back on. Now, local officials and communications experts are pushing providers to improve their performance during natural disasters.
Lori McCaskill lives in Brooklyn, and when Sandy hit last October, her Verizon cell service went out. She couldn't work. She couldn't check in with family and friends. Her sister was due to have a baby any day.
When he was a teenager, journalist Rod Dreher couldn't wait to escape Louisiana. Now he has found his way home again in grief — after his sister's death from lung cancer. It was "in light" of that tragedy, Dreher says, that he discovered the value of community. It's the subject of his new book, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life.