A superior court ruling that invalidates the State of Alaska’s longheld practice of requiring municipal governments to contribute a specific amount toward public education remains in place for now.
Superior Court Judge William Carey on Friday denied a motion for a stay of his January decision that the required local contribution is a dedicated tax, and therefore is unconstitutional.
The lawsuit was filed last year by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough. Borough Manager Dan Bockhorst said he’s pleased with Carey’s ruling on the stay.
“I was confident that the judge would follow the path that he has laid out carefully in his prior decisions,” he said. “I think his decision today was well-reasoned and he denied the stay, because the three-part test required for a stay was not met.”
State attorneys had argued that the state would be irreparably harmed if a stay were denied, that the borough would not be harmed if a stay were approved, and that the state is likely to succeed in its appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court.
State attorneys filed for the stay after filing its appeal. They argued that the stay is needed so that the Legislature will know what to do about education funding this year. The Supreme Court is unlikely to rule on the appeal before the legislative session ends in mid-April.
In his Friday decision, Carey agreed that there was some irreparable harm to the state if his ruling is not delayed pending appeal. However, he writes that the borough clearly would be harmed by a stay, because it would have to pay a large amount of money with no hope of getting that money back.
Carey also writes that the state hasn’t shown how it has a likelihood of success on appeal. Carey based his January decision on prior Alaska Supreme Court rulings, and he writes that while it’s possible that the high court will reverse itself, it’s not highly probable.
The state also filed a motion for a stay with the Alaska Supreme Court, and that court announced it would wait to see how Carey ruled on the stay first. So, state attorneys have another opportunity to argue the merits of delaying Carey’s January ruling.
Bockhorst said the Supreme Court will consider Carey’s ruling on the stay when making its own decision.
“Judge Carey has laid a very strong foundation for the issue to be considered by the Supreme Court. Again, we’re very pleased with the result,” he said.
The Alaska Supreme Court has not announced a timeline yet for considering the motion for a stay.