Gov. Matt Bevin did not ask the Kentucky Supreme Court to rehear a case over his authority to make millions in midyear budget cuts to public universities.
Supreme Court Clerk Susan Clary said Thursday morning that the office received nothing overnight. The deadline was 12:30 a.m.
Bevin spokeswoman Amanda Stamper confirmed that Bevin had decided not to request a rehearing, but she didn’t explain why.
“This was a bad decision for Kentucky, and the ramifications from the attorney general’s political lawsuit could be significant,” Stamper said. “Moody’s called the decision a ‘credit negative’ for Kentucky because it limits Governor Bevin’s ability to manage difficult budget scenarios in light of Kentucky’s $35 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.”
The state’s high court ruled 5-2 on Sept. 22 that Bevin had exceeded his statutory authority when he cut university budgets by 2 percent last spring after the General Assembly had already appropriated their funding. At the time, Bevin said the cuts were needed to shore up the state pension system.
Stamper said the $18 million — placed in escrow at the beginning of the case — will be released in due course on the order of the Franklin Circuit Court, which first heard the case and ruled in favor of Bevin.
Attorney General Andy Beshear, who challenged Bevin’s budget cut in court, filed a motion late Thursday asking the lower court to order Bevin to release the money.
The cuts ranged from $5.5 million for the University of Kentucky to $866,800 for Morehead State University.
In its ruling overturning the lower court, the Supreme Court said that whatever power Bevin has to reduce spending “does not extend to universities, which the legislature has made independent bodies politic with control over their own expenditures.”
Beshear argued that Bevin had violated the state constitution’s separation of powers by usurping legislative power over a budget that had already been decided.
Bevin said he was disappointed in the decision and strongly disagreed with it. He had a 20-day window to ask the Supreme Court for a rehearing.
On Thursday morning, Beshear called Bevin’s decision “a victory for the rule of law in the commonwealth.
“As the Supreme Court noted, everyone, even the governor, is bound by the law,” Beshear said in a statement. “This money is needed to offset the damage to our students, faculty and their families caused by Gov. Bevin’s massive education cuts. The governor should immediately release these funds.”
The legislature and Bevin approved cutting university budgets another 4.5 percent in the two-year state budget that took effect July 1.