Still stinging from a Supreme Court ruling last week that overturned tax-increase constraints on the Legislature, three Republican senators have introduced a bill seeking to cut four high court justices.
The measure, introduced Wednesday, would require the current nine justices to draw straws. The four who draw the shortest straws “shall be terminated, and those judges shall not serve the remainder of their respective unexpired terms.”
Any savings to the state would be used to fund basic education. That section is a reference to the court’s order that the Legislature is not fulfilling its constitutional duty to pay for education in the state.
Republican Sen. Michael Baumgartner of Spokane insists it’s a serious bill, saying that as the Legislature looks for cuts in other areas of state government, “why should the judiciary be exempt?”
Supreme Court justices earn more than $164,000 a year. Baumgartner said that by reducing the court, you also reduce salaries that need to be paid to their clerks and other staffers.
“There’s a lot of school teachers you could hire with these salaries,” he said.
Sen. Doug Ericksen of Ferndale and Janea Holmquist Newbry of Moses Lake have signed on to the bill, a well.
In a 6-3 ruling last week, the court ruled that an initiative requiring a two-thirds requirement for tax increases was in conflict with the state constitution and that lawmakers and the people of Washington would need to pass a constitutional amendment in order to change from a simple majority to a supermajority.
It’s been estimated that the state needs about $4 billion to fulfill its duty to fully pay for basic education by 2018. The state also faces an estimated $975 million shortfall for the next biennium.