The Washington Supreme Court on Thursday ordered lawmakers to explain why they haven’t followed its orders to fix the way Washington pays for public education.
The court has ordered the state to appear before it on Sept. 3 and show the court how it has followed its orders in the 2012 McCleary decision or face contempt.
Of course, the legislature is in contempt of the court’s order on McCleary, but the court doesn’t really have any good options to enforce it. Of the remedies Chief Justice Barbara Madsen lists in her rather terse order summoning “the State” to appear before the court at a September 3 “show cause hearing,” only the first is appealing, none would be effective, and several would realize the Republican wet dream of using McCleary as an opportunity to starve the rest of state government.
- Imposing monetary or other contempt sanctions;
- Prohibiting expenditures on certain other matters until the Court’s constitutional ruling is complied with;
- Ordering the legislature to pass legislation to fund specific amounts or remedies;
- Ordering the sale of State property to fund constitutional compliance;
- Invalidating education funding cuts to the budget;
- Prohibiting any funding of an unconstitutional education system; and
- Any other appropriate relief.
I’m all for imposing contempt sanctions. Throw the house and senate leadership in jail, if you can. That at least would be a spectacle on a scale worthy of the impending crisis. But simply forcing the state to spend money it doesn’t have would only pull billions from social services, higher education, and other critical programs, while selling state property in order to fund current expenses is nothing less than one generation ripping off all those generations that precede or succeed it.
No, the only solution is more revenue. And if the court can’t effectively order the legislature to raise taxes (or eliminate tax exemptions), then there’s no solving this crisis.
A few months ago I asked if state Democrats were prepared for the impending McCleary disaster? Of course, it was a rhetorical question. The answer is clearly “No.”