This spring, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) bypassed the state legislature to unilaterally cut $41 million in education funding. Now, he’s getting hit with a lawsuit.
State Attorney General Andy Beshear (D) is suing Bevin over what he sees as a violation of state law and the governor’s authority. Bevin ordered a 4.5 percent cut to higher education funding in March, and Beshear told the governor he had one week to renege on his budget cuts or he would face a lawsuit. Bevin has refused to renounce his budget cuts, so the attorney general is following through on his promise to take the governor to court.
“No governor has the power to do what this governor has done,” Beshear told reporters during a Monday press conference. “Under (the governor’s) view, a budget is merely a suggestion and the legislature is merely an advisory body,” he added in a statement.
Beshear is attempting to restore state education funding as soon as possible, and has scheduled a hearing on a temporary injunction in Franklin Circuit Court for this Thursday.
Bevin, who says the cuts are necessary for the cash-strapped state, is planning to fight back. “As best we can make sense of his rambling press conference, we strongly disagree with the Attorney General and will respond as necessary in court,” wrote Bevin spokesperson Jessica Ditto in a statement. Ditto also argued that Beshear’s lawsuit is an attempt to divert attention away from corruption allegations and personnel issues in the Attorney General’s office, after a Deputy Attorney General resigned last month over charges of bribery.
Beshear, a Democrat and the son of Kentucky’s previous governor, has repeatedly denied this legal action is in any way political. “I would sue any governor who did this, whether Democratic or Republican,” he said in the Monday press conference.
Gov. Bevin, a Tea Party favorite who lost badly in a primary challenge to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014, has a proclivity for embracing extreme, conservative positions. Among many examples of remarkable statements, Bevin once postulated that same-sex marriage would lead to parent-child marriage. He has also told the EPA to “pound sand” and has argued that a federal minimum wage is unconstitutional. Since taking office in December, Bevin has already stripped voting rights for 140,000 former felons, reversed the former governor’s plan to raise Kentucky’s minimum wage for government workers and contractors, and has bowed to Kim Davis’ wishes by issuing an executive order removing clerks’ names from marriage licenses.
Beshear’s lawsuit against Bevin is the latest in a number of high-profile lawsuits involving education funding. In January, a coalition of cities, local school boards, and parents took the state of Connecticut to court, claiming that the state’s K-12 school-funding system is unconstitutional. And Detroit Public Schools is suing Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), among others, over claims that the state is violating student’s civil rights through its emergency manager law, which places financial authority in unelected state bureaucrats.
School districts around the nation are facing major budget crises, as many state lawmakers nationwide have been unable to enact reforms addressing gaps in funding.
Bryan Dewan is an Intern at ThinkProgress.