State attorney general sues governor over higher ed funding cuts

Beshear says the budget cuts violate the Kentucky constitution

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear (D) sued Gov. Matt Bevin (R) on Monday to prevent him from implementing budget cuts to the state's public colleges and universities. 

A few weeks ago, Bevin ordered that current state funding for state institutions be cut immediately by 4.5%, or $41 million. The cuts would affect eight state universities and the Kentucky Community and Technical College system.

How big funding cuts in one state affected students

The move is part of Bevin's plan to save about $650 million over the next two years to reduce the state's public pension debt, which totals more than $35 billion dollars. The cuts amount to 1.1% of university operating revenues of $5.2 billion, according to Bevin's office.

All state universities have argued that the budget cuts would have adverse effects. Several presidents, including those of University of Kentucky and Morehead State University, wrote Bevin on Friday to let him know they were prepared to weather the funding cuts "based on our trust that you have committed to making new investments in higher education in the following biennium (2019-2020)."

Beshear argues that the funding cuts violate budget laws and the separation of powers in the state's constitution.

In a statement, Beshear said, "Under (the governor's) view, a budget is merely a suggestion and the legislature is merely an advisory body."

Capture savings—without cutting programs

Beshear said he was not filing the lawsuit "willingly" but because he "must do so to challenge the governor's view of the law."'

Bevin's spokesperson Jessica Ditto says they "strongly disagree" with Beshear's claims, noting that Bevin's office would respond in court (Johnson, Reuters, 4/11; Loftus, Courier Journal, 4/1). 

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