Ky. Supreme Court to rule on Gov. Bevin's university budget cuts - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Ky. Supreme Court to rule on Gov. Bevin's university budget cuts

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Gov. Matt Bevin Gov. Matt Bevin
Andy Beshear, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, Kentucky Attorney General

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- How much power does Gov. Matt Bevin have to cut spending to state universities?

That question is now in the hands of the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Attorney General Andy Beshear took the rare step, Thursday, of arguing the case himself.

He sued Gov. Bevin after he cut state funding to public universities without approval from the General Assembly.

Beshear told the justices that Bevin does not have that authority unless there is budget shortfall.

"It is solely about whether a governor can unilaterally reduce an appropriation by the General Assembly to our universities in a time of surplus. That answer is a resounding 'no,'" said Beshear.

Bevin's attorney, Steve Pitt, argued the governor can decide how much of the state budget to spend unless there is a clear abuse of that power.

"If the reductions are so much that it would affect the core reason for that appropriation being made, then certainly the courts can step in," he said.

But the justices sharply questioned Pitt, apparently concerned that any cut could potentially be seen as an abuse of power, opening the door to endless lawsuits and too much judicial power over the budget.

"And is the court going to say, 'Well, 100 was probably too much and 90 is too little, so how about 95?' Is the court going to insert itself in the process of how much can it hurt?" asked Associate Justice Lisabeth Hughes.

The governor won his case in the lower court.

After the hearing, both sides expressed confidence.

"The statute in question here is very clear in allowing the governor to make downward revisions in allotments," Pitt told reporters.

"This is the first governor in history that claimed this power. Why haven't others? Because they don't have that power," said Beshear.

There is no word as to when the court might rule. Both sides do agree this is a precedent-setting case.

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