Gov. Pete Ricketts will create a new task force to get to the root causes of methamphetamine abuse and broken homes, he said Wednesday in a sweeping address to the state Legislature.

Faced with a budget shortfall, Ricketts called for 2% across-the-board spending cuts by state agencies, except in three areas – schools, prisons and child welfare.

Those entities will receive more money, if the senators agree.

He said the number of broken homes is heartbreaking.

In the first seven months of 2017, parents using methamphetamine were a factor in 1 of every 3 removals of children from their homes, he said.

“We have seen a significant increase in the number of children coming into our state’s child welfare system,” he said. “Annually, we are up about 9 percent, or about 485 kids (in the system.) That is heartbreaking.”

In the budget, Ricketts recommends an additional $35 million to child welfare and public assistance for this year and next.

“We must take care of our kids,” he said.

“We have to get to the bottom of this disturbing trend and all of the other contributing factors,” he said. “That’s why I will be forming a new child welfare task force to determine the root causes.”