High court ruling on budget cuts urgent

The state Supreme Court should expedite an appeal testing the governor’s power to unilaterally rewrite the state budget after the legislature has enacted it into law.

Gov. Matt Bevin won the first round in Franklin Circuit Court May 18, when Judge Thomas Wingate ruled that Bevin had the authority to withhold from public universities and colleges 2 percent of their current-year appropriation, as Bevin had ordered. Bevin said he needed the savings to shore up public pensions and state reserves.

Attorney General Andy Beshear and several lawmakers challenged Bevin’s action, saying the governor has the authority to make such cuts only when there is a revenue shortfall and that his action violated the state constitution’s separation of powers provisions.

As expected, they have appealed directly to the Supreme Court.

Wingate described his ruling as “narrowly limited to the facts of this case” and said that the ruling “does not confer unlimited power on the governor.”

But Kentuckians are left to wonder how much leeway the governor has to ignore state laws, one of which is the duly enacted budget.

The sooner the Supreme Court provides some clarity, the better.