AG to court: Don't punish Legislature over schools

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SEATTLE (AP) — Lawmakers should not be held in contempt of the state Supreme Court on their failure to present a complete plan to increase school funding, Attorney General Bob Ferguson's office said in a Friday filing.

The state's top attorney is defending the Legislature, saying lawmakers weren't able to produce a plan in this year's short legislative session because of "legitimate policy disagreements that have not been resolved."

The state Supreme 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. The McCleary decision said lawmakers are not meeting their constitutional responsibility to fully pay for basic education and they are relying too much on local tax-levy dollars to balance the education budget.

The opening brief was due Friday.

The brief by the attorney general's office said that, "The court should not treat a legitimate policy disagreement in the legislative branch as disrespectful conduct worthy of contempt."

Lawmakers were given until 2017-18 school year to fix the problem by the court. The Legislature has been making yearly progress reports on its efforts to fulfill the McCleary decision, and every year the court has said in response that lawmakers aren't doing enough.

The most recent report to the court, filed at the end of April, acknowledged that the Legislature didn't make a lot of progress in 2014, but said it had ideas for fixing that situation during the 2015 legislative session.