Washington legislators' education fines total $5.2M with no end in sight
- Since Washington’s state Supreme Court imposed daily $100,000 fines on its legislature over an unresolved school funding crisis, the state has racked up $5.2 million in fines.
- The fines will go toward funding the state’s basic education mandate, but even disbursing the fines is dependent on legislative action to determine where the funds will come from.
- The state's House majority leader, Democratic Rep. Pat Sullivan, has said the fines aren’t likely to be paid out until lawmakers pass a supplemental 2016 budget in January or in the 2017 budget.
Court orders have often forced states to confront troubled school finance systems, as judicial involvement can accelerate and force action. But in Washington, the legislature has now spent years in defiance of the high court’s order. The $100,000 daily fines are a harsh reminder of the consequences of the legislature’s inability to come to a satisfactory way forward.
And the resistance is ongoing: Any fines accrued during a special session could be waived, but the state’s governor has so far declined to call one. After the fines were imposed, Republican lawmakers urged their colleagues to ignore the order and stick with a plan passed at the end of the previous legislative session (and deemed insufficient to meet the court’s mandate).