• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Here's Johnny - Beshear v. Bevin

Kentuckians disappointed by the would-be blockbuster "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" can watch, for free, a clash of would-be titans: Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear and Gov. Matt Bevin. Monday afternoon, Beshear filed suit in Franklin Circuit Court against Bevin over the governor's order for an immediate 4.5 percent cut in higher education funding this fiscal year. Beshear, the son of two-term Gov. Steve Beshear, claims the cuts are illegal, violating Kentucky's constitutional separation of powers and the governor's constitutional duty to "faithfully execute" the law. The complaint also states that Bevin's action breaks Kentucky laws governing budget reductions and the 2014-2016 biennium budget law. "No governor has the power to do what this governor has done, and I would sue any governor who did this, whether Democratic or Republican," Beshear said. "Governor Bevin's unilateral cuts in this current fiscal year violates our constitution's separation of powers where only the legislature can pass laws, appropriate, and spend tax dollars." Bevin's communications director made politics personal: "As much as we can make sense of his rambling press conference, we strongly disagree with the attorney general and will respond as necessary in court. Given the alleged corruption and personnel problems in the Office of the Attorney General and his father's administration, it is clear that he is attempting to deflect attention away from his own challenges." Ouch. Bevin's order, along with a 9 percent higher education cut the following year, were key parts of his two-year budget plan. He says the cuts are necessary in order to shift more money into Kentucky's criminally underfunded state employee and teacher retirement programs. Actually, the governor didn't, as far as I know, use the word "criminally" - I did. If the state legislators and governors who've consistently underfunded those pension plans had done such things in the private sector, they'd be making license plates instead of laws. On the other hand, Bevin's decision to bypass the General Assembly - aka an "executive order" - may strike some open-minded Republicans as the sort of thing for which they've blasted President Obama. The Democratic-led House refused to follow Bevin's lead, while the Republican-controlled Senate did, and the conference committees working on a compromise, as of Tuesday, had yet to reach one. Beshear first publicly uttered the "S" word on April Fools' Day, saying he'd give the governor a week to comply. Bevin didn't blink, saying he does have the authority to make such a decision and, besides, the General Assembly might fix the problem before the end of its session. On Friday, April 8, (which was, by my count, one week later), a Beshear spokesman said nothing would happen until Monday. Republican state Sen. Tom Buford of Nicholasville chimed in on the Herald-Leader's comment page, as he frequently does, after a story about the brouhaha. "The AG (attorney general) will not have standing in this matter. The universities may but will not cross the hand that feeds them. The AG may spend thousands to find this out," Buford wrote. It isn't the first time attorneys general and governors have crossed swords on the dark and bloody ground of Kentucky's state Capitol. When Andy Beshear's predecessor, Jack Conway, refused to appeal a judicial decision overturning Kentucky's ban on gay marriage, Bevin's predecessor spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on private attorneys trying to do so. Before that, then-Attorney General Greg Stumbo, who's now House Speaker, took on Andy Beshear's father's predecessor (Gov. Ernie Fletcher) over the hiring scandal that helped make Fletcher a one-term governor. I sort of like the word "predecessor." Anyway, Beshear has proven that his warning to Bevin was no April Fools' joke, while House and Senate leaders may well reach a budget deal that suits Bevin and settles the matter out of court and in the Capitol. Whatever happens, you can expect to see each political party try to make the most of it come November. House Democrats, struggling desperately to hold on to a four-seat majority, will say Bevin and Republican House candidates want to cut education. Bevin and the GOP candidates running for the House will say the Dems were and are fiscally irresponsible. Both sides will have good points. Thank you And now a Thank You to one of my favorite Dear Readers: Lillian B., who sent me an apron to wear the next time I cook sausage for a Woodford Sun fundraiser for the Relay for Life. Lillian, that apron is in a place of honor in my office, and I don it when I'm having a particularly difficult time with a story. Or column. Like this one. Hey, this is a messy business sometimes. Thanks also to Peggy Carter S., who sends encouraging notes and little gifts and leaves funny voicemails for me from time to time. Last year, after I (jokingly) announced a fund drive to purchase a new central air conditioner for myself, Ms. S sent me a dozen paper fans. They're still in my office, too, Ms. S. And thanks again to all of you who read Here's Johnny and don't follow it up by visiting The Sun carrying torches, pitchforks and hot buckets of tar. I aim to amuse, entertain and, occasionally, arouse, and sometimes I fall short. If you keep reading, I'll keep trying to get it right.

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