Attorney general sues Bevin for college cuts

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin addressed the Commonwealth with his budget for the next two years on Tuesday, Jan. 26, at the Capitol building in Frankfort. The budget included a $110 million cut from UK’s state general funding over the next two years.

Cheyene Miller

More than $41 million reserved for state universities and colleges are at stake in a lawsuit battle between Gov. Matt Bevin and Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear.

Beshear announced Monday that he was suing Bevin over the governor’s immediate 4.5 percent cuts to public universities and colleges. Beshear said Bevin violated the Separations of Powers mandate in the Kentucky Constitution.

The Kentucky Constitution holds that only the legislature can appropriate and decide how to spend and cut tax dollars. The only way a governor could enact immediate budget cuts is if the state government predicted a shortfall, Beshear said, noting that the legislature is predicting a surplus.

“What the governor did here is illegal, in that he ignored the fact that there was no shortfall, so he did not have the authority to make a reduction,” said Beshear who accused Bevin of unfairly targeting universities.

Beshear said Kentucky college students could be facing tuition hikes, since tuition typically increases in wake of higher education cuts. Other effects could include staff reductions and cuts to programming.

During the state of the commonwealth address, Bevin revealed his proposed two-year spending plan which included 4.5 percent baseline cuts over the next fiscal year and 9 percent cuts in the following years. He said the cuts were to help alleviate the state’s underfunded pension system, which has a predicted shortfall of more than $30 billion.

“As best we can make sense of his rambling press conference, we strongly disagree with the attorney general and will respond as necessary in court. Given the amount of alleged corruption and personnel problems in the office of attorney general and his father’s administration it is clear that he is attempting to deflect attention away from his own challenges,” Bevin’s spokeswoman Jessica Ditto wrote in a statement Monday during Beshear’s announcement.

In response to Bevin’s statement, Besehar said he believes in acting “professional, not petty.”

“This is not personal to me at all. It’s not political. It’s about the law, and the fact the governor does not have the power to do what he is doing,” Beshear said.

The case is assigned to Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate and has a hearing over a temporary injunction on Thursday, April 21.

Beshear said he is moving on an expedited schedule to have the lawsuit decided by the end of the fiscal quarter on June 30.