by David Safier
Want to know why Republican legislators think they don’t have to pay up the billion dollars they owe our school kids because they illegally ignored the voters’ demand back in 2000 that school funding has to keep up with inflation? Howard Fischer covers the story in detail, but for your reading pleasure, I’ll paraphrase, loosely, the four arguments presented by the attorneys representing state legislators.
1. We don't have the money, so there's no way we can come up with the billion dollars. You know we'll never raise taxes, right?
2. It's not fair to make today's taxpayers pay for something that taxpayers should have funded before. I mean, some of them weren’t even here back then, so why should they have to pay? And some people who've left the state will be off the hook, so how fair is that? Better to screw over all the kids than be slightly unfair to some adults.
3. The courts can't make us pay. They can just say we acted illegally and leave it at that. Because, I don’t know, “Rule of Law” or something.
4. Our lawyers told us it was fine to ignore the will of the voters, and we were just following their advice. And these were the good lawyers, not the bad lawyers we always complain about.
The best line in the Howie Fischer article came from the lawyer representing the schools. Arguing against the idea that there's no way the legislators can come up with the money, because of course they'll never raise taxes, he countered,
“‘I don’t want to’ is not a legal defense.”
Apparently, "I don't want to," followed by "and you can't make me," makes perfect sense to petulant children, deadbeat dads and Republican legislators.