Ky. Attorney General threatens to sue over Gov. Bevin's planned - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Ky. Attorney General threatens to sue over Gov. Bevin's planned cuts to public education

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear (D) announced late Friday afternoon that Gov. Matt Bevin's order to cut funding for public universities is illegal. 

In a news conference held in Frankfort, Beshear gave the governor seven days to rescind his order. If Bevin does not do so, then the attorney general says he will sue.

Gov. Matt Bevin had ordered an immediate cut to funding of the state's universities -- but now there's a dispute over whether the governor's controversial action is legal.

Governor Bevin's move comes in the middle of a budget stalemate that centers around cuts to higher education. By executive order, the governor has ordered an immediate 4.5 percent cut to state funding of public colleges and universities.

The governor says the pension crisis takes priority.

"We decided to do the most equitable thing, which was to implement what needs to be done in order to take care of the obligations that the Commonwealth has," Gov. Bevin said.

But Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo believes Bevin's cuts are illegal.

"If his revenues are sufficient, and there's no shortfall, then the appropriation that the General Assembly made to those entities, I believe, has to be followed," said Stumbo.

"He knows that I have legal authority to do this," Bevin said of Stumbo. "We know as well, and we are exercising the authority that we have."

But Stumbo says earlier today that it would take the Attorney General or the university presidents to file suit. So far, the universities have indicated they will go along with the cuts.

"Well he told everybody who was listening back in January that that was his plan -- that he felt like the universities needed to take a current year cut," said Sen. Damon Thayer, Senate Majority Floor Leader.

Meantime, the room where budget talks are being held remains dark, with negotiations breaking down over future funding of higher education. The governor wants to cut 9 percent over the next two years, but House Democrats say there's plenty of money for both universities and pensions.

It may come down to who blinks first as the specter of either a special session or a partial government shutdown looms.

"I don't believe the governor ever wanted a budget," Stumbo said. "That's my personal belief. I don't believe he ever acted like he wanted a budget. I believe that he wants to fight. He wants a political fight. He wants to make a political statement."

"I ask, 'Why would we inflict the degree of suffering that will come from no budget on the people of Kentucky, if, in fact, there's no reason to do so?'" Bevin asked.

Lawmakers meet in session just one more day before the April 12 budget deadline.

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