About $18 million that Gov. Matt Bevin cut from university budgets last spring will be delivered to them Thursday, according to a court order signed Monday.
The money has been held in escrow since Attorney General Andy Beshear challenged Gov. Matt Bevin’s authority to make 2 percent cuts to public universities midway through a budget year. Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate ruled in Bevin’s favor, but the state Supreme Court disagreed, saying the governor could not interfere with legislative appropriations to universities because they are independent entities.
Bevin did not ask for a rehearing in the case last week, clearing the way for Wingate to sign an order Monday morning to release the money. The appropriations range from $5.5 million to the University of Kentucky to $866,000 to Morehead State University.
At UK, for example, the money will be put into initiatives that support improved retention and graduation rates, officials said. Eastern Kentucky University officials said the $1.3 million they will receive will become contingency funds to offset other budget cuts, including 4.5 percent cuts in the state’s 2016-2018 budget.
Bevin said he was disappointed in the decision because he wanted to use the money for Kentucky’s ailing public pension systems. However, the $18 million would have first had to go back into the state’s General Fund, according to lawyers on both sides.
The case helped ignite a fierce political battle between Bevin and Beshear, who have also fought court battles over Bevin’s reorganization of governing boards at the University of Louisville and the Kentucky Retirement Systems. In late September, Bevin released a video in which he criticized “whiny” university presidents who complained about budget cuts. Without using any names, he also said University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto was “the whiniest of the bunch” despite having received a 50 percent raise after the cuts were made.