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Judge Orders State Legislature to Pay Public Schools More Than $300 Million

Jack Kurtz/The Republic

Rejecting a last-minute plea for a reprieve, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge has ordered state officials to immediately start administering more than $300 million for public schools. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer reports.

The Supreme Court ruled last year lawmakers violated a 2000 voter-approved measure which requires them to increase state aid to schools each year to account for inflation. Last month Judge Katherine Cooper calculated the missing funds at $317 million for the current school year. Now Cooper has rejected a bid by the state for a delay in enforcing that. Rep. John Kavanagh, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said the state has enough in the rainy day fund to cover this year. But there’s another $320 million that will have to be added next year, and each year beyond. Donald Peters who represents the school districts that sued, said there are options.

“They could raise taxes if they decided to do so. One could look at this Legislature and say not very likely. And I understand that. But that’s entirely a question for them as to where they get it. But they are required to get it,” Peters said.

Kavanagh said taxes are a political non-starter, meaning a fiscal crisis down the road.

“If you’re not bringing in more revenue, and we’re facing a more than $400 million shortfall in the current year, and if we use the rainy day fund as a one-time fix, you’re going to have an over $800 million shortfall in the budget year that we’re going to be moving into,” Kavanagh said.

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