FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky's highest court says the state's Republican governor cannot cut the budgets of public colleges and universities without the approval of the state legislature.
The 5-2 ruling by the state Supreme Court reverses a lower court ruling that said Gov. Matt Bevin had the authority to order public colleges and universities not to spend all of the money the state legislature gave them. Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear appealed, arguing Bevin's order was illegal. A majority of the court agreed on Thursday, saying Bevin does not have that authority.
The ruling is a victory for Beshear, who has sued Bevin three times so far questioning the extent of the governor's power. Just last month, Bevin boasted on a Louisville radio show that Beshear "will lose every one of these cases."
The following is a statement from Attorney General Andy Beshear:
“Today, the Supreme Court enforced Kentucky law, reminding us that “the governor, like everyone, is bound by the law.” Based on today’s ruling, I am calling on Gov. Bevin to immediately release the $18 million he wrongfully withheld from our public colleges and universities. As the court stated, it is my job as Attorney General “to vindicate the public rights of the people of the Commonwealth,” and I will continue to do so. I am also calling on the governor’s office to use today’s ruling as a turning point. It is time for him to stop attacking, and to instead join me in building a better Kentucky. We live in a state where far too many of our children are abused. Our seniors face daily scams that seek to rob them of their hard-earned savings. Thousands of victims of sexual assault have been denied justice based on our rape kit backlog. And our communities face the most deadly drug epidemic imaginable. These are the problems Kentuckians expect us to address, and they are problems that all of us – democrats, republicans or independents – can address together. So I would hope that after today, the nasty press releases and name-calling stop, and the governor joins us for the real work that needs to be done to help Kentucky families.”
Below is a statement from Press Secretary Amanda Stamper on Thursday’s Supreme Court of Kentucky ruling in the university allotment case:
“We are disappointed in the Court’s decision today and strongly disagree with its reasoning. The Attorney General clearly does not understand the severity of the pension problem which became the nation’s worst-funded plan under the watch of his father’s administration.
Today’s ruling only affects $18 million of the universities’ overall budgets which is 0.0027 of their annual $6.6 billion expenditures. Nonetheless, we have to be vigilant about every taxpayer dollar spent if we are going to solve our pension crisis.
The Commonwealth’s public universities have thousands of employees who participate in our pension system and, having such a large stake, should be part of the solution to fix the state’s $35 billion underfunded pension liability. Gov. Bevin recognizes that preserving our retirement systems for state workers and retirees is both a legal and moral obligation.
We remain determined to fix Kentucky’s pension crisis, no matter the opposition. This administration will continue to use every available tool to solve our pressing financial problem.”
Statement from University of Louisville:
“As we have always done, the University of Louisville will work with the dollars approved by the legislature and governor. However, it is important for our university to plan ahead and not have unexpected cuts in our funding. This ruling gives state universities some measure of stability in planning and funding. We expect to put the $2.78 million from last spring’s cut back into our operating budget to fund student success initiatives.”
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