Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear is once again challenging the legality of cuts handed down by the state’s Republican governor.
Beshear argues Gov. Matt Bevin jumped the gun by ordering 17 percent cuts across most state agencies to fill a projected $200 million dollar spending gap. The Democrat told reporters Tuesday the governor cannot initiate the reductions until a consensus forecasting group finalizes their revenue estimates in December.
Bevin’s cuts total about $350 million, with $150 million earmarked for the state’s rainy day fund, but the AG maintains the cuts must not exceed the projected shortfall.
"State employees that are out there that might be looking at layoffs (with) this 17.5 percent cut deserve to know that nearly half of what's being requested can't be reduced under state law," Beshear says.
While attorney general’s office is among those on the chopping block, Beshear says he’s only enforcing rules okayed by state legislators, and will comply with any “legal budget reduction.”
"These are not restrictions that the attorney general is trying to put on the governor," the AG reiterated. "They are restrictions that were passed by the General Assembly, that had the votes and were passed into law."
Bevin’s cuts apply to most state departments, with some areas like Medicaid, K-12 education, and the state prison system exempted. State Budget Director John Chilton has said while challenging, the current fiscal constraints present “a unique opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness and necessity of programs.”
The governor's office pushed back swiftly, labeling Beshear's announcement "fiscally irresponsible and nonsensical."
"Kentucky families and businesses know they should not spend more than they make and having zero dollars in the bank to plan for emergencies is dangerous," spokesperson Amanda Stamper said. In a statement to the Associated Press, she added that the Bevin administration "merely asked state agencies to draft a similar spending plan before any final decisions are made later in the year."
The back-and-forth marks only the latest tussle over spending between the two officials. Beshear successfully sued the governor over 4.5 percent budget cuts handed down to state public colleges and universities in 2016.