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Kentucky Supreme Court: Gov. Bevin exceeded authority in cutting college budgets

Budgets were cut by $18 million

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 22, 2016) — The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled today that Gov. Matt Bevin exceeded his authority when he attempted to cut the budgets of Kentucky colleges and universities by $18 million.

In a 5-2 ruling the court said:

“The governor’s reduction of the allotments of the universities in this case exceeded his statutory authority to revise allotments under KRS 48.620(1) and his authority to withhold allotments under KRS 45.253(4). Whatever authority he might otherwise have to require a budget unit not to spend appropriated funds dose not extend to the universities, which the legislature has made independent bodies politic with control over their own expenditures. We therefore do not reach the question of whether his actions were constitutional, as the statutes do not give him the authority to act as he proposed. For these reasons, the Franklin Circuit Court’s order upholding the governor’s actions is reversed, and this matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

Attorney General Andy Beshear, who argued that Bevin had exceeded his authority by attempting to implement the budget cuts, said in a statement:

“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.”

Bevin’s press secretary Amanda Stamper, who called Kentucky’s pension problem the worst funded program in the nation, said in a statement:

“We are disappointed in the court’s decision today and strongly disagree with its reasoning… 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.”

Eric Monday, executive vice president for Finance & Administration at the University of Kentucky, said in a statement:

“Mid-year reductions to our budget are extremely difficult to manage. The Supreme Court’s ruling today provides all the state’s universities a greater sense of certainty in our budget planning process as we all move forward.  The funds that will be returned to the University of Kentucky, about $5.6 million, will be included in our focus on student success initiatives, particularly in the areas of retention and graduation rates.”

The University of Louisville said in a statement:

“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.”