Gov. Matt Bevin vetoed parts of the state budget and six other bills Wednesday that were approved by lawmakers on the final day of this year’s legislative session.
The governor delayed for one year a new program to pay tuition for college students seeking two-year associate’s degrees after existing state scholarship programs have been used. He also struck down a bill that would change the state’s driver’s licenses so residents can meet federal requirements for boarding domestic flights.
The so-called Real ID Act was strongly opposed by Tea Party Republicans in the state.
Kentucky lawmakers forfeited their right to override the vetoes by waiting until April 15 to approve the legislation.
The community college scholarship program, called “Work Ready,” was pushed by House Democrats.
The plan applies to new high school graduates who take at least 15 credit hours each semester and maintain a 2.5 grade point average while seeking a two-year degree at any college in the state.
Bevin said more time is needed to implement the program and delayed it until the second year of the two-year budget that begins July 1. He vetoed the bill authorizing the program, House Bill 626, but kept funding for it in the budget bill, House Bill 303.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, sharply criticized the Republican governor’s actions.
He said the decision by Bevin to veto HB 626 “will impact every high school student across Kentucky and their families because the students would have been able to attend college beginning this fall tuition-free and be ready to work upon graduation.”
Under Senate Bill 245, which Bevin vetoed in its entirety, the new driver’s licenses would have been optional. But anyone who does not have a new license by Oct. 1, 2020, would have to use a U.S. passport, a passport card or some other acceptable form of identification to board a domestic flight. It costs $135 to get a passport and takes about six weeks to get one. A passport card costs $55 and cannot be used for international travel.
During the legislative session, Bevin voiced support for the bill but said in his veto message Wednesday that since then “it has become increasingly clear that there is tremendous opposition and misunderstanding about the bill.”
“We also owe the voters of Kentucky the ability to see what effect, if any, the next presidential administration will have on this issue,” he said.
Other bills vetoed in part or whole by Bevin include:
▪ House Bill 10. This bill provided money to deal with emergency maintenance at state parks and had clean-up language to the budget bill. Bevin’s veto means that $40 million will be shifted from need-based financial aid programs to pay for a dual-credit scholarship program for high school students and the Work Ready program.
Rep. James Kay, D-Versailles, worked with a group of students called the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team to persuade the legislature to fulfill the “Powerball Promise” of using Kentucky lottery proceeds to fund aid programs for low-income students instead of diverting it to other programs.
“This session we saw students come out and voice their right to use the lottery funds that are designated to go to need-based scholarships and stop the unacceptable practice of diverting that money away,” Kay said. “It’s the same old Frankfort tricks that steal the lottery money from those students who need it the most.”
The budget bill, however, does provide $15 million more for need-based aid over the next two years than was available in the previous two years.
Bevin defended the change in his veto statement.
“Funding dual-credit and Work Ready scholarships are an appropriate use of lottery funds, which were always intended to support education,” he said. “Sufficient funds are available to support the needs of these educational initiatives.”
Bevin also gave the parks system six extra months to spend their emergency funding.
▪ House Bill 129. Bevin vetoed several lines in this measure, which outlines the state’s two-year road construction plan.
▪ House Bill 150. This deals with the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. Bevin vetoed all of it, saying the measure would impose substantial burdens on the manner and ability of an agency to conduct business.
Bevin said the bill’s premise — to encourage an employer to increase the number of employees it would hire during its first year of operation after acquiring a business — is commendable, but it does not consider the financial impact it would have on the state’s unemployment insurance fund.
▪ House Bill 304. Bevin vetoed several provisions in this bill, which is the operating budget for the state Transportation Cabinet.