Kentucky Governor Can |Cut University Budgets

     (CN) — A Kentucky judge ruled that the state’s governor can order cuts to public colleges and universities without the approval of lawmakers, a decision the attorney general says he will appeal.
     Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear sued Gov. Matt Bevin last month, claiming the governor overstepped his authority by slashing state funding for higher education without legislative approval.
     Bevin, a Republican, was elected last year. He has proposed $650 million in state spending cuts over the next two years as part of an effort to pay down Kentucky’s state pension plan debt.
     As part of the budget proposal, Bevin called for a $41 million cut in funding for the state’s public colleges and universities.
     The legislature rejected the proposal, but Bevin, who insists the state’s public pension plan is on the brink of insolvency, made the cuts anyway.
     Beshear, a Democrat, blasted the move, saying “The governor’s unilateral action in cutting the appropriated funding of colleges, universities and community colleges was outside of his authority. it requires a declared shortfall that does not exist. If it did, the last budget bill that was passed and signed into law dictates the steps that must be taken.”
     He gave the governor seven days to restore the funding, but the governor ignored him.
     During an April 11 press conference, Beshear said, “The general welfare and material well-being of citizens of the Commonwealth depend in large measure upon the development of a well-educated and highly trained workforce.”
     “Those are not my words, they are Kentucky law – passed by the legislature and codified into law. So in Kentucky, a university or community college education is not a privilege, it is a vital necessity for our economic survival. That’s not my opinion, that’s the law,” the attorney general said.
     On Wednesday, Franklin County Judge Thomas Wingate ruled against Beshear, granting Bevin’s motion for summary judgment.
     “It is widely recognized that the administration and expenditure of legislatively appropriated money is an executive function. Contrary to the attorney general’s insistence, the governor has not stolen the power of the purse,” Wingate wrote. “The governor has used his executive discretion for spending appropriated funds within the permissible limitations of his power. Many of the affected universities have released public statements admitting that they can live with the downward revisions without overall negative impact.”
     The judge added, “Nothing the universities’ agreement and based on the specific facts presented in this case, the court also concludes that the governor has not abused his discretion.”
     Beshear said in a statement Wednesday that his office will appeal the ruling.
     “While we respect Judge Wingate, his opinion is inconsistent with numerous decisions by the Supreme Court of Kentucky and confers dangerous levels of power on the governor. We will be filing an immediate appeal of today’s decision and will seek to have the ruling transferred to the Supreme Court,” the attorney general said. “We always expected the Supreme Court to decide this matter, and we are confident that it will rule in our favor and hold that the budget is more than an advisory document.”

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