What We're Reading: Top State Stories 10/27

US: 1 in 4 teachers chronically skip class

About 27 percent of the nation’s full-time teachers are considered chronically absent from school, according to federal data, missing the equivalent of more than two weeks of classes each academic year in what some districts say has become an educational crisis.

CA: California National Guard members won't have to pay back bonuses

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered the Pentagon to stop clawing back excessive recruiting bonuses paid to nearly 10,000 California National Guard members during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, when greater enlistment was needed.

VT: Vermont health care board approves new pay model for doctors

The Green Mountain Care Board, which oversees Vermont’s single-payer health care system, approved an “all-payer model” that will pay providers set amounts for care rather than per test, service or procedure. The model, it is estimated, will save $10 billion over the next 10 years.

AK: Alaska governor puts pension bond plan on hold

Independent Gov. Bill Walker says the state will not proceed with plans to sell bonds to help pay for Alaska’s pension obligations, saying it lacks support from lawmakers. The state considered selling up to $3.3 billion in bonds despite warnings it could hurt Alaska’s credit rating.

US: College costs rising faster than financial aid

Colleges are putting the brakes on hefty price increases, but tuition and fees are still rising at a faster rate than the financial aid and family income needed to cover costs, according to two reports from the College Board.

PA: Efforts to shore up Pennsylvania pension plan fail

Pennsylvania lawmakers ended this year’s legislative session after failing to muster enough votes to fix ailing public pension systems by reducing traditional pension benefits for newly hired state government and public school employees, and added plan options that rely on a 401(k)-style benefit. 

SD: South Dakota tax collections won’t support proposed spending plan

Three months into fiscal 2017, South Dakota’s economy isn’t close to generating enough tax revenue to cover the budget set by the Legislature. Tax collections are coming in 1.8 percent below the same period last year.

GA: Georgia approves new rules for storing, disposing of coal ash

Georgia’s top environmental board approved new rules for handling and disposing of the ash from coal-fired power generation plants. While more stringent than federal regulations, they don’t fully satisfy environmentalists and citizens who live near landfills.

SC: South Carolina lawmakers aim for plan to fix ailing pension system by January

Lawmakers are looking at whether to put more taxpayer money into South Carolina’s public pension system that serves roughly 180,000 state and local government employees or take more money out of their paychecks to cover a $40 billion unfunded liability.

NM: New Mexico’s credit rating downgraded

Moody’s Investor Service said it downgraded New Mexico’s top rating for general obligation bonds because of concern over the depletion of general fund reserves, even after lawmakers approved a $350 million-plus solvency package during a recent special session.

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