Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate said Wednesday he will rule as soon as possible on the legality of Gov. Matt Bevin’s mid-year budget cuts to universities and colleges.
The judge’s comment came after a hearing of about 90 minutes pitting Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear against Steve Pitt, the Republican governor’s general counsel.
Pitt argued that state law gives Bevin the authority to make the cuts. Beshear said the Kentucky Constitution only allows a governor to cut an enacted budget only if there is a revenue shortfall.
He expressed concern that a rogue governor could cut the budget of any agency he or she did not like. Pitt said that would not happen.
“The Kentucky Constitution starts with ‘We the people,’ and not ‘Me the governor,” said Beshear.
Bevin’s administration has set aside the $18 million that would have gone to Kentucky’s universities and colleges until Wingate rules.
In late March, Bevin cut state spending for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, by $41 million for colleges and universities. Bevin said the money would be used to aid the state’s cash-strapped public pension programs.
Last month, Bevin reduced his 4.5 percent mid-year budget cut for universities to 2 percent, releasing more than $23 million to public colleges and universities.
Both Pitt and Beshear said they were optimistic that Wingate will rule in their favor. Regardless of how Wingate rules, the case is expected to advance to the Kentucky Supreme Court.