Kentucky’s Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear announced on Monday he has filed suit against Republican Gov. Matt Bevin over the governor’s recent order imposing an immediate 4.5 percent funding cut to state colleges and universities.
The cut amounts to some $41 million in spending reductions from what the General Assembly had agreed to in a previous budget.
Beshear said Bevin’s current-year cuts to higher education violate the separation of powers between the three branches of government and are unconstitutional.
“Under his view, a budget is merely a suggestion that creates caps, and the legislature is merely an advisory body that says, ‘we think you should spend money here or there,’” Beshear said.
The cuts come at the same time legislators are trying to hammer out a state budget. Lawmakers from both chambers say they’ve agreed to 4.5 percent cuts for higher education over the next two years but support leaving current-year spending alone.
Beshear said Bevin is only allowed to cut current-year spending if the state is projected to have a revenue shortfall, which Kentucky currently is not.
Last week, Beshear gave Bevin a week to rescind the cuts, which the governor ignored.
In a statement from Bevin’s office, spokeswoman Jessica Ditto said state law supports the governor’s order and accused Beshear of using the lawsuit to distract from corruption allegations in his office.
“As best we can make sense of his rambling press conference, we strongly disagree with the Attorney General and will respond as necessary in court,” Ditto said. “Given the amount of alleged corruption and personnel problems in the Office of Attorney General and his father’s administration, it is clear that he is attempting to deflect attention away from his own challenges.”
The “personnel problems” Ditto mentions appear to reference Tim Longmeyer, a former Personnel Cabinet secretary in Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration and deputy attorney general in the younger Beshear’s office. Longmeyer is currently under investigation for an alleged kickback scheme that steered state business toward a consulting firm.
This post has been updated.