Saturday, June 04, 2016

Beshear says Bevin can't use disputed funds for pensions

This from the Glasgow Daily Times:

Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear says $18 million originally appropriated for the state’s universities and community colleges can’t be spent on pensions even if Gov. Matt Bevin wins a court battle over his authority to cut the funding from higher education.
Attorney General Andy Beshear

“These dollars cannot go to pensions,” Beshear said Wednesday in response to reporters’ questions. “The governor’s general counsel admitted that during our last (court) hearing.”

Bevin reduced allocations to higher education by 2 percent - about $18 million - for the current fiscal year which ends June 30, and he did so without legislative approval. The General Assembly, however, did approve his request to reduce funding to higher education by a total of 4.5 percent in the new year which begins July 1. Beshear doesn’t dispute those reductions.

Beshear challenged Bevin’s current year reductions in Franklin Circuit, claiming Bevin’s action violates the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government. Beshear is appealing that decision and seeking to have the case sent directly to the state Supreme Court.

During oral arguments before Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate, Bevin General Counsel Steve Pitt said while the law allows Bevin to reduce an allocation to a budget unit like higher education he can’t re-direct the money to another budget unit. Instead, the funds would “lapse” to the General Fund surplus.

In his written ruling, Wingate said a governor would be engaging in “executive appropriation” if he transferred the money to another unit, something which would trespass on the General Assembly’s constitutional power to appropriate state funds. (Wingate also approved an agreed order between the parties to set aside the $18 million until the case is finally decided.)

Bevin originally justified his calls for reductions in many areas of state government over two and a half years with the need to shore up Kentucky’s poorly funded pension systems.

Beshear suggested Wednesday that given Pitt’s statement in court and Wingate’s ruling, there’s no reason Bevin couldn’t restore the $18 million to higher education in order to prevent or lessen tuition increases or announced faculty and staff layoffs.

“My hope was given that (Bevin) got a substantial amount of money toward his priority in this upcoming budget that he would release this money to schools,” Beshear said.

When Beshear was asked if Bevin couldn’t simply “displace” the $18 million by placing it into the Budget Reserve Trust Fund and use existing surpluses in the fund to put a similar amount into the pension funds, the attorney general said he could only do that with the passage of a new biennial budget in two years.

“In the next budget cycle, two years from now, they could potentially be used for (pensions),” Beshear said. “But that’s basically saying these dollars that are so badly needed by our universities . . . would basically sit in a savings account so it might be used for something in the future.”

Bevin and Beshear have skirmished over several issues - with each publicly taking shots at the other. Bevin often accuses Andy Beshear of pursuing a personal and political agenda because Bevin seeks to reverse some initiatives of Gov. Steve Beshear, his immediate predecessor and Andy Beshear’s father.

The most recent flare-up between the two was over Bevin’s decision to join a suit by 11 other states challenging a directive from the federal government that schools must allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity regardless of their biological sex.

According to CN/2 Pure Politics, Bevin said Beshear, the state’s chief lawyer, “dropped the ball” by not joining the suit himself.

Beshear claims he was reviewing the suit and expecting Bevin to seek his counsel. Instead, Beshear said, Bevin joined the suit two days after it was filed and without consulting Beshear.

No comments: