Three Kentucky Representatives Ask to Join AG Beshear’s Lawsuit on Higher Education Cuts
Three members of the Kentucky House of Representatives are challenging the governor’s power to alter appropriations made for higher education in the state budget passed by the General Assembly in 2014. Their action will seek to intervene or join a lawsuit seeking to stop those cuts that was filed by Attorney General Andy Beshear on Monday (April 11).
“We applaud the courage of the attorney general and his readiness to stand up for students and middle class families who will almost certainly face tuition increases in light of these cuts,” Rep. Wayne said.
Reps. Wayne, Marzian, and Owens, all of Louisville, filed motions in court today asking to join the attorney general’s challenge to the governor’s attempt to cut funding for Kentucky’s public colleges and universities. These cuts would force all Kentucky institutions of higher education to reduce their annual appropriations in the final quarter of this fiscal year.
Estimates show that the University of Louisville, and the 20,000 students at that institution, could face up to a 12% tuition increase if these cuts were implemented across the next two years. Because of these hikes, students will be more likely to abandon their degree or never start one at all.
Rep. Mary Lou Marzian added, “This is simply a tax increase on parents and students in our schools,” she said. “We provide funding in part to control tuition increases. Kentucky’s constitution doesn’t afford the governor the unilateral authority to force a tuition increase on families. It is simply not right.”
According to the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, in 2008, the average UofL graduate had $11,000 in student loan debt whereas today that number has more than doubled, now over $23,000. The state’s contributions to U of L in that time has decreased 27%.
The center also noted that more classes will likely be taught by adjunct or part-time faculty as opposed to full-time professors. Further, past cuts have impacted student support programs. These impacts are highly likely to affect both the quality of instruction and quality of student life at the university.
“We carefully weigh the best use of taxpayer dollars in preparing each budget and enact those deliberations into law,” Rep. Wayne said. “The Governor cannot ignore this painstaking work of the people’s elected representatives by usurping the power of the legislature and chop essential state aid.”
Motions by the three legislators specifically cite Section 27 and 28 of the Kentucky Constitution. Those sections create three branches of government and state that none “shall exercise any power properly belonging to either of the others.” This separation of powers includes specific roles and responsibilities of the three co-equal branches of state government. The legislature, and specifically the House of Representatives, has the duty to file and pass revenue and spending measures, including a biennial state budget. The legislators’ action argues that the governor’s cuts upset this carefully designed balance of power.
“I am pleased to join this effort to protect taxpayers, and defend our right to set a proper budget,” said Rep. Darryl Owens. “University training drives Kentucky’s economy by readying people for higher paying jobs. These cuts slam the brakes on the progress of young people trying to make a better future for themselves and their communities.”
The three members are asking the Franklin Circuit Court to allow them to file a complaint against the Governor for violation of the Separation of Powers Doctrine and various state laws. The Court is scheduled to hear arguments on the motion next Thursday, April 21st.
(story provided by Kentucky House of Representatives)