Gov. Bevin vetoes parts of budget, other bills passed by General Assembly

04/28/2016 12:30 PM

Gov. Matt Bevin vetoed all or part of seven bills on Wednesday, delaying implementation of a program intended to provide free tuition for students in two-year programs and stopping a move to implement new federal identification standards brought about after terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, among other actions.

Bevin’s vetoes can’t be overturned by the General Assembly, which adjourned sine die April 15.

His veto pen touched various pieces of the $21.5 billion biennial budget, oftentimes citing the need for more flexibility for agencies to spend dollars. Bevin eliminated the first year of funding for the Work Ready Kentucky program, which had been budgeted at $9.4 million in fiscal year 2017 and $15.9 million in fiscal year 2018, as well as House Bill 626, which had set up the Work Ready Kentucky and dual-credit scholarship programs as well as the governing body overseeing the $100 million workforce development bond pool sought by Bevin, who is currently on an economic trip to Europe, and performance-based funding for most state universities.

In his veto message, Bevin said his action “should not, in any way, be misconstrued as a negative reflection on the laudable goals of education and preparing students for higher education and career success” and said that funding and authorization for the programs remains in the budget.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and other House Democrats had advocated for creating the Work Ready Kentucky scholarships this session.

“There were hastily written and overly broad provisions included in House Bill 626 that should not be enshrined in statute,” Bevin wrote. “The Work Ready Scholarship provisions outlined in House Bill 626 do not permit funding to be targeted based on true need and, with limited funding, may leave behind those student (sic) with the greatest need. These provisions can be more clearly defined in the future to ensure that funds made available provide the greatest return on investment.”

Stumbo, however, said the vetoes to the scholarship program made Wednesday “a sad and unfortunate day for all of Kentucky.”

“The decision by Gov. Bevin to veto House Bill 626 will impact every high school student across Kentucky and their families because the students would have been able to attend college beginning this fall tuition-free and be ready to work upon graduation,” Stumbo said in a statement.

“The veto also negated the $100 million bond issue for projects that would have been constructed throughout the commonwealth to train our workers, and the veto also took out a broader dual-credit program for our high school students going forward and performance-based funding for our universities.”

Bevin also carved out language in sections detailing budget reduction plans as well as language authorizing the Legislative Research Commission to review quarterly allotment data and the Interim Joint Appropriations and Revenue Committee to ensure compliance with the spending plan.

Bevin’s decision to cut the final quarterly allotment of most state universities by 2 percent has sparked a legal challenge from Attorney General Andy Beshear, who has argued that the governor overstepped his authority in reducing appropriated funds.

“With the Commonwealth facing significant fiscal constraints, it is vitally important that the Executive Branch retain maximum flexibility to manage any potential budget reductions over the biennium,” Bevin wrote in his veto message.

The governor also eliminated from the budget a $1.3 million fund transfer from the Personnel Cabinet’s Workers’ Compensation Benefits and Reserve, saying that “would likely create a program shortfall during the biennium,” as well as $400,000 in funding for Arc of Kentucky, a non-profit serving intellectually and developmentally disabled Kentuckians.

“ARC of Kentucky is an excellent advocate for disabled and handicapped Kentuckians,” Bevin wrote in the veto message. “While their work should be applauded, non-profits are strongest when they are not dependent upon tax dollars for operations. We encourage ARC of Kentucky to move forward with their passionate advocacy and focus their fundraising efforts on private sector and foundation support.”

Expanding preschool eligibility for families earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level was also vetoed from the budget.

“Mandated expansion of eligibility, however desirable, is not prudent in tight fiscal times,” Bevin wrote.

Other vetoes delivered by Bevin Wednesday are:

Senate Bill 245: The legislation would have adopted on a voluntary basis federal identification requirements as part of the REAL ID Act.

The enhanced security ID, which would have been optional when renewing driver’s licenses, would have required either a birth certificate or immigration documents to confirm identities. The federal law, which will require either an enhanced ID or passports to board domestic flights beginning in in January 2018, emerged in the aftermath of terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Bevin, in his veto message, noted that he initially supported the measure and even encouraged the Senate to pass SB 245 in March.

“Since that time, however, it has become increasingly clear that there is tremendous opposition and misunderstanding about this bill,” the governor wrote. “The widespread opposition comes from citizens of Kentucky across the entire political spectrum for a variety of different reasons. Good governance demands the courtesy of time needed to better understand and discuss the difference between ‘REAL ID’ as originally envisioned by its authors, and the minimal and voluntary requirements authorized by Senate Bill 245.”

“By taking additional time to study alternative options for the traveling public, and having an additional year to continue the dialogue and clear up any remaining misinformation, Kentucky will be better positioned to enact any updates to our driver’s licensing system that may ultimately be needed.”

House Bill 10: Bevin issued line-item vetoes that eliminated transfers totaling $31.4 million to the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority to replace lottery funds for the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship Program, Kentucky Tuition Grant Program and College Access Program.

“Funding dual credit and Work Ready scholarships are an appropriate use of lottery funds, which always were intended to support education,” he wrote in his veto message. “Sufficient funds are available to support the needs of these educational initiatives.”

House Bill 304: Bevin issued line-item vetoes in the Transportation Cabinet’s biennial budget that would have mandated a plan to expand the Mountain Parkway from Prestonsburg to Beckley, W.Va., and study employee salaries at the cabinet.

Bevin said that examining all merit employees’ salaries at the Transportation Cabinet would prove “time consuming, costly and inefficient” and that a planning study to extend the Mountain Parkway is included in the six-year road plan.

“The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet already has cost estimates for the projects and currently works with the Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Transportation on the common goals of the two states with regard to transportation,” Bevin wrote in his veto message.

House Bill 129: Minor changes to the two-year highway construction plan.

House Bill 150: Bevin said he appreciated the legislation’s premise, which was to try to bolster employment in business acquisitions, but the mechanism to incentivize employers “unduly complicates the appellate process and does not adequately address the financial impact of both the retroactive and future adjustments that would be made to the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.”

“The Commonwealth embraces the opportunity to provide incentives that encourage the growth of the workforce, and in that regard, intends to address the purpose of this legislation through regulation after consideration of the economic impact that would be had on the Trust Fund,” Bevin wrote in his veto message.

HB 150 also included a provision that would have made military spouses eligible for unemployment benefits if they move to another base at least 100 miles away.


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