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Court: Bevin Can't Cut Universities' Budgets

A ruling handed down by the Kentucky Supreme Court on Thursday reverses Governor Matt Bevin's $18 million cut to the state's public universities, including Northern Kentucky University.

Bevin pushed for the cut and unilaterally made the decision last spring. Attorney General Andy Beshear challenged the governor's authority to do so.

"We are disappointed in the Court’s decision today and strongly disagree with its reasoning," Bevin said in a statement. "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."

Tensions have been high in Frankfort since Bevin, a Republican, took office as the feud escalated between him and his predecessor, Democrat Steve Beshear, the father of the attorney general.

"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," Bevin continued. "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."

Andy Beshear also issued a statement. 

“Today, the Supreme Court enforced Kentucky law, reminding us that “the governor, like everyone, is bound by the law,” Beshear said in a statement. "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.”

Northern Kentucky University declined to comment on the ruling as it is still examining what it means. NKU absorbed the cuts with budget reserves.

You can read the full ruling here.

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher