Legislating by Judicial Fiat
The Tax Foundation published a background paper almost a year ago in which they discussed “appropriation by litigation,” and had the subtitle of “estimating the cost of judicial mandates for state and local education spending.” In the introduction, they write:
“Since 1977 courts in 27 states have held that spending on schools is constitutionally inequitable or inadequate. These decisions often lead to dramatic short-term increases in education spending as lawmakers comply with court mandates. In nine states lawmakers raised taxes by over $13 billion to meet these new spending obligations. Similar cases are currently pending in other states.
“Commentators have written many books, articles, and research papers concerning court involvement in the school finance controversy. But few studies have attempted a comprehensive, state-by-state measure of the long-term fiscal impact of court education mandates and none have presented a state-by-state estimate of the cost of legislation approved to comply with court education mandates.”
Virginia is not listed among those 27 states. However, the burden of those judicial decisions on taxpayers is significant. Nationwide, judges’ mandates have cost taxpayers $34.3 billion (in 2004 dollars), or an an average of $976 per student. The cost ranges from a high of $8.3 million in New Jersey, (6,648 per student) followed by New York at $10.6 million ($3,633 per student).
It’s one thing to bear the tax burdens imposed by elected federal, state and local legislators, but a totally different thing when imposed by unelected judges. For a pithy and well-reasoned argument against judicial activists, albeit those on the U.S. Supreme Court, turn to “Men in Black” by radio talk show host and constitutional lawyer Mark Levin.