“It’s a circus.”

That’s a quote from North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and state Senate President Pro Tem Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham).

The “it” is the order from Union County Superior Court Judge David Lee for the executive branch of the state government to withdraw $1.7 billion from the state general fund and spend it on public education.

The order is part of a 27-year-old lawsuit about education funding, commonly referred to as “Leandro,” and the $1.7 billion would only fund two years of the plan to increase education funding in the state to a level that WestEd, a consulting group hired by Gov. Roy Cooper, determined was adequate.  The cost of the entire plan is $5.6 billion.

The North Carolina Constitution states, “No money shall be drawn from the State treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law.”

A recent ruling by the North Carolina Supreme Court states, “The power of the purse is the exclusive prerogative of the General Assembly, with the origin of the appropriations clause dating back to the time that the original state constitution was ratified in 1776.”

And now a retired Superior Court judge has ordered that the General Assembly be bypassed and $1.7 billion be spent without its approval.

Moore and Berger in a press release stated, “This case has devolved into an attempt by politically allied lawyers and the Governor to enact the Governor’s preferred budget plan via court order, cutting out the legislature from its proper and constitutional role.

“If Judge Lee’s orders are followed, the legislature’s core duty is usurped by an unelected county-level trial judge and an out-of-state consultancy funded by the Governor and his political allies.

“Thankfully, executive branch officials swear an oath to the Constitution, not to an unelected county-level trial judge. A judge does not have the legal or constitutional authority to order a withdrawal from the state’s General Fund.

“The only rebuttal to this clear precedent is an absurd theory developed by Attorney General Josh Stein, which argues that the Constitution, in 1868, ordered specific funding level for the education budget in the year 2021, and that only an out-of-state consultancy called WestEd can divine the precise funding level the 1868 Constitution ordered.”