Judge hears arguments in lawsuit over governor's cuts to state universities
Attorney General challenges governor's authority to make the cuts.
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- It's the latest round in Beshear vs. Bevin.
The Attorney General and the governor were back in court over funding cuts to higher education.
Both sides argued their case before Judge Thomas Wingate in Franklin Circuit Court. Bottom line, the issue is this: How much authority does the governor have to spend or not spend tax dollars?
Gov. Matt Bevin wants to cut funding to the state's colleges and universities, originally by 4.5 percent and later reduced to two percent.
The governor wants the savings to go to the ailing pension system. “Let's don't just spend all this money just because it's appropriated to you. Let's try to save some of it so we can try to solve this pension crisis,” Bevin’s attorney, Steve Pitt, told reporters.
Attorney General Andy Beshear argues the governor does not have the power to cut spending in the middle of a fiscal year, unless there is a revenue shortfall, which there is not. “The Kentucky Constitution simply just does not provide the governor with the power at his whim, to decide what to fund and how to fund it. That would make that person virtually all-powerful in this state,” said Beshear.
The attorney for three Louisville lawmakers who want to join the lawsuit says the governor is trying to undermine the General Assembly.
“If you have another step, after the General Assembly passes the budget, where one man with a stroke of the pen can come in and alter any of the amounts that are appropriated, that completely undercuts the purpose,” said Pierce Whites.
But the governor's attorney says it's the legislature that passed the law Bevin is using to make the cuts. “Whatever power, whether it's second-guessing or something else, the legislature has given it,” said Pitt.
It's the latest skirmish in the war of words between Beshear and Bevin, including charges and countercharges of corruption in the administration of the Attorney General's father, former governor Steve Beshear. “To me, it's not personal. It's about duty,” said Beshear in an interview.
There is no word on when Judge Wingate might rule, but there's no doubt this case will end up in the state Supreme Court.
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