Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

State of Affairs

Twenty-two of the 36 states facing budget deficits this fiscal year are increasing spending. Yes, increasing. Many states are collecting significantly less revenue than they counted on when budgets were drafted six months ago.

Spending cuts or tax increases will be necessitated because a number of states are required by law to balance their budgets. Cybercast News reports a survey from the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers released this week says the biggest offender is Nevada which at mid-year was $115 million in debt but plans to increase spending by just over 11%. New York will spend about 5.5% more despite being $1.8 billion in the red. Rounding out the top five are Ohio, North Carolina and Connecticut.

Numbers Game

President-elect Obama says his pick for education secretary — Chicago Schools Chief Arne Duncan — presided over a 30% increase in the number of elementary students who meet acceptable levels on standardized tests. But a Cybercast News analysis of education department statistics indicates only 17% of Chicago eighth graders tested at or above grade level in reading in 2007. In contrast, 29% of eighth graders across the country scored at or above grade-level reading that year.

The report says Chicago's schools consistently performed below the national average in reading, writing and math during Duncan's tenure.

Road Rage

A group of environmentalists that endorsed Mr. Obama for president is now attacking his proposal for new infrastructure projects. The Washington Times reports "Friends of the Earth" has launched a massive effort to keep the construction of new roads out of the president-elect's proposed economic stimulus package. The group also launched a Web site called roadtonowhere.org.

"More roads mean more pollution and more dependence on oil, hurting our economy, security and climate," says Colin Peppard, a member of the environmental group.

The president-elect and congressional Democrats have made building roads, bridges and schools a major part of a proposed stimulus that could cost up to $1 trillion.


And finally, in 2006 first lady Laura Bush attended the Kennedy Center Honors here in Washington wearing the same red Oscar de la Renta gown worn by three other women. So the Washington Times reports that if you plan on attending any of the balls during inauguration week — and do not want to be caught in the same awkward situation — you should register your dress.

The Web site dressregistry.com allows women to list their gown and the event they plan on attending. The site's founder, Andrew Jones, says women can "review the types of gowns others will be wearing. The only thing they can't do is see who is wearing what. That would be cheating.

— FOX News Channel's Zachary Kenworthy contributed to this report.