Last year, California stopped giving Orange County extra money from vehicle license fees. State leaders said the county was no longer entitled to money after recovering from its 1994 bankruptcy.
But state leaders said the county then redirected tax dollars intended for schools to cover the $48 million in lost license fees. County officials argued that K-12 schools would not suffer because the state is obligated to backfill that money.
The lawsuit, filed in Orange County Superior Court, asks a judge to force the auditor-controller to return the money.
A hearing has yet to be scheduled.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.