Puget Sound Business Journal editorial: “Supreme Court must back off Legislature”; House loses key fiscal leader

In an unusually hard-hitting editorial, the Puget Sound Business Journal advises the state Supreme Court to take a beat.

The court’s decision to fine the Legislature $100,000 a day until it devises a plan to adequately fund K-12 education is bad for the state and sends the wrong message at a critical time.

…By overstepping its bounds, the court has created a statewide atmosphere of ill-will — and hasn’t done a thing to help the more than 1 million students in the state’s K-12 public schools.

It needs to back off.

So far, there’s no reported progress on how lawmakers will address the court’s sanctions, if at all, before the beginning of the 2016 legislative session. The Legislature will be tackling the issue without the direct involvement of Rep. Ross Hunter, the House Appropriations chair. Hunter is leaving the House to become the director of the Department of Early Learning. He was an early proponent of the “levy swap” and has been a major advocate for McCleary funding. 

As the Seattle Times reports, the House may also be losing another key fiscal player.

The appointment [of Hunter to the department] means House Democrats may need to fill two roles central to budget writing. Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle and chair of the House Finance Committee, has expressed interest in filling the seat now held by state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, who is running for Metropolitan King County Council.

 Meanwhile, the school year is getting off to a bumpy start with a teacher strike in Pasco, possibly also in Spokane, uncertainty in Seattle, and ongoing negotiations in other districts in the state.

No matter what the court does (or does not do), education funding will remain a central legislative priority, influencing policy and politics through 2016 and beyond.