With yesterday’s imposition of sanctions on the Legislature, the state Supreme Court moved back onto center stage in the school funding discussion. We wrote briefly on this yesterday. The unanimous 10-page order detailed the increasingly lengthy give and take between the state and the court since the 2012 McCleary order (AP provides a nice education lawsuit timeline). Then, this:
Given the gravity of the State’s ongoing violation of its constitutional obligation…the time has come for the court to impose sanctions…
Effective immediately, the State of Washington is assessed a remedial penalty of one-hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) per day until it adopts a complete plan for complying [with the court order] by the 2018 school year.
The money goes into a basic education account and the penalty is suspended during the special session the court hopes will be called to expedite compliance. The Seattle Times reports,
Inslee, in a statement, said legislative leaders have agreed to meet Monday to “begin the necessary and difficult work before us,” adding that “there is much that needs to be done before a special session can be called.”
The Seattle Times editorial board welcomes the idea of swift action.
Gov. Jay Inslee should show the type of bold leadership on the systemic solutions that he did not show during the six months of legislative sessions. He should work with legislative leaders to hatch a plan and then reconvene the full Legislature as soon as possible. Lawmakers must also set aside partisanship and ideology to find a sustainable new education-funding model.
The editorial board thinks a capital gains tax should be in the mix.
The News Tribune looks at the peculiar footnote in the court order, the one that says,
We offer no opinion on whether full state funding of basic education salaries must be accompanied by levy reform, but how the State achieves full state funding is up the Legislature.
The editorial board then asks the question that must have been on legislators’ minds: “Huh? Supreme Court has ‘no opinion’ on levy reform?”
Many legislators appear to have been caught by surprise. The Yakima Herald-Republic has reactions from Reps. Norm Johnson, R-Yakima, and Sam Hunt, D-Olympia.
“I thought it was strange they released the press release with their decision before they informed the Legislature what they were doing,” [Johnson] said.
Both parties are left to wonder why their efforts to increase education spending in this year’s series of special sessions — with strong bipartisanship, the two added — were not enough.
About new funding…
New taxes, such as the failed capital gains tax or a state income tax, are out of the question for Republicans, said Johnson. A capital gains tax might get a few more Democratic votes in the House, added Hunt, but likely not enough to pass.
Jim Camden reports on Spokane-area lawmakers responses.
Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane, said he had hoped the court would have lifted sanctions after the Legislature made historic increases in school funding in the last session.
…Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, said legislators knew they had not come up with a plan for some of the changes the court wants. …“Simply calling a special session doesn’t bring us any closer to the solution,” Billig said.
Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, called the order a violation of the separation of powers between the court and the Legislature.
…Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, also called for the justices’ impeachment on his Facebook page.
Crosscut has more legislative responses.
State Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island and one of the lead Democrats on the court’s 2012 McCleary decision, said the sanctions are no surprise because the Legislature’s July progress report to the court included incomplete actions and did not address long-term funding issues…
Rolfes and Rep.Ross Hunter, D- Medina and one of the House’s chief budget writers, said Inslee and legislative leaders need to hammer out some broad strokes before the entire Legislature should meet.
Hunter said public hearings on some proposals will be needed before any catch-up legislation can passed. Plus he speculated that some listening tours across the state might be considered prior to a special session.
Hunter provides more commentary on his blog.
Looks like this could take a while…