FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s Democratic attorney general sued his state’s Republican governor on Monday, saying he overstepped his authority when he ordered budget cuts for state colleges and universities without legislative approval.
Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has proposed $650 million in state spending cuts over the next two years as part of a plan to begin paying down the state’s public pension debt, estimated at more than $30 billion. Part of that plan included budget reductions of 4.5 percent, or $41 million, for the state’s colleges and universities in the last three months of the fiscal year.
State lawmakers rejected that plan. They have still not approved a two-year state spending plan, but neither the House nor the Senate included current-year cuts for colleges and universities in its budget proposal.
But Bevin cut their budgets anyway, and Attorney General Andy Beshear gave Bevin seven days to rescind his order. Bevin ignored him.
On Monday, Beshear announced he had filed a lawsuit in Franklin County Circuit Court. He calledBevin’s order “unconstitutional and illegal.”
“I do not take any joy or satisfaction out of this action,” Beshear said at the news conference. “Over the last seven days, it was my hope that the governor would listen to reason, comply with the law and rescind his order. He did not.”
Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto responded that the governor’s office strongly disagrees with Beshear’s action and “will respond as necessary in court.”
Beshear wants a judge to issue an injunction forcing the governor to release the funds to each university, his office said in a news release. Beshear is requesting expedited review by the court.
The lawsuit further escalates what has become a political feud between Bevin, Beshear and the attorney general’s father, former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear. Before Bevin took office, he called Steve Beshear an “embarrassment” after the then-governor appointed his wife to an unpaid position to the board of directors for the Kentucky Horse Park.
Steve Beshear has also started a nonprofit organization dedicated to opposing Bevin’s attempts to undo the state’s health care exchange.
“This is not political,” Andy Beshear said Monday. “It’s not Democrats versus Republicans. It’s not about upcoming or future elections. It’s not Bevin versus Beshear. It’s not even about pensions versus higher education. It’s about the law and my duty as attorney general to enforce it. And it’s not personal. No governor has the power to do what this governor has done.”
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