- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 4, 2016

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear says he is looking into the validity of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s budget vetoes and his mid-year spending cuts at several state agencies.

Bevin issued budget vetoes last week that, among other things, eliminated mandatory spending for some cancer screening programs and nixed the expanded eligibility requirements for the state’s public preschool program.

Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo told the Lexington Herald-Leader last week he questioned the legality of the vetoes given that Bevin was overseas on an economic development trip at the time.

On Wednesday, following a court hearing over Bevin’s budget cuts to colleges and universities, Beshear said he was looking into the vetoes himself.

“Any time a budget goes through and different vetoes are made, you always want to look at the validity of both the sections of the budget and the vetoes,” Beshear said.

Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto said Wednesday that Bevin’s vetoes are valid.

Beshear’s comments came after he took the governor to court over his decision to cut spending by 2 percent at state colleges and universities this year without the approval of the state legislature. Bevin asked the legislature to approve the cuts, but they did not. Citing a state law that allows him to revise allotments, Bevin ordered the cuts anyway.

Beshear sued Bevin, saying he does not have the authority to cut spending unless there is a budget shortfall.

Lawyers for both sides argued Wednesday before Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate. Beshear argued himself, which is unusual since Kentucky’s attorney general normally has other lawyers argue for him and rarely appears in court himself.

Bevin’s attorney Stephen Pitt said the law clearly gives the governor authority to revise allotments to state agencies, arguing that “any fifth-grade elementary school teacher teaching students how to read sentences” could see it. Beshear fired back by quoting the state constitution.

“The Kentucky constitution states ‘we the people,’ not ‘me the governor,’” Beshear said.

Wingate said he will issue an opinion in the coming weeks, and noted the case will likely end up in the state Supreme Court.

In addition to the 2 percent cuts for colleges and universities, Bevin also cut spending by 4.5 percent this year for most other state agencies. Those cuts were also not approved by the state legislature. The attorney general’s lawsuit does not address those cuts, but Beshear told reporters after the hearing a ruling could apply to those cuts as well.

“I definitely think this case has broader implications than just the universities,” Beshear said.

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