Matt Bevin

Ryland Barton, WKU Public Radio

A spokesman for Andy Beshear says the Democratic Attorney General will not file a lawsuit against Republican Gov. Matt Bevin before Monday.

Last week Bevin ordered midyear budget cuts of 4.5 percent at all colleges and universities. That means those institutions will have $41 million less to spend than the legislature intended.

Beshear says Bevin's action is illegal. He gave the governor seven days to rescind his order or face a lawsuit. Beshear spokesman Terry Sebastian says that timeline ends at close of business Friday.

College funding is a key disagreement between House and Senate leaders in crafting a two-year state budget plan. Negotiations are continuing but Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo says the two sides are at an impasse.

Rhonda Miller, WKU Public Radio

A day after Republican Gov. Matt Bevin issued an order cutting the state’s current contribution to higher education by 4.5 percent, Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear said that move is illegal.

In a news conference late Friday afternoon, Beshear — the state’s top law enforcement official — told Bevin to rescind his order, which made the cuts to state colleges and universities. He said if the governor did not do so within seven days, his office would file suit.

“That is the exact type of power our democracy, our constitution, our liberty explicitly forbids,” Beshear said.

In a letter reducing the appropriation to higher education, Bevin cited a state law he said gives him the authority to make the cuts. The law forbids “allotments in excess of the amount appropriated to that budget unit in a branch budget bill” but says nothing about reduced appropriations.

WKU

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has ordered immediate 4.5 percent cuts in state funding to all public colleges and universities.

The order comes as state lawmakers are locked in a stalemate over a two-year state spending plan. House and Senate leaders broke off negotiations on Thursday because Senate Republicans insisted on budget cuts for higher education while Democrats refused.

Bevin first proposed his mid-year budget cuts in January as part of a plan to cut state spending by $650 million and use the savings to begin to pay down the state’s public pension debt.

The House and the Senate did not include Bevin’s 4.5 percent mid-year cuts in their budget proposals. But Bevin, citing a state law that allows him to reduce allotments for executive branch agencies, cut their budgets anyway.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Brandy Shaul

This is the first in a two-part series on Medicaid, Kentucky's expansion of the government-subsidized program, and proposed changes to Medicaid.

As Governor Matt Bevin prepares to re-design Kentucky’s Medicaid program, a new national survey shows the commonwealth with the second-largest gains in insurance coverage. 

More than half-a-million Kentuckians obtained coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act.  Some 80 percent of the newly insured went onto the Medicaid rolls. 

But many Medicaid enrollees are worried about what lies ahead under the state’s new Republican governor.  Teresa Bowley was at a recent health insurance sign-up event in Bowling Green to ask a question about changing providers.  Six months ago, she qualified for coverage through Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion. 

Now when she gets sick, she goes to the doctor. But that hasn’t always been the case. 

”You just don’t. You just try to think this will go away on its own.  You have to miss work," Bowley explained.

WFPL News

Gov. Matt Bevin’s top budget aide on Monday said spending cuts are necessary to start improving the status of the state’s ailing pension systems.

Under the governor’s proposed budget, most state agencies will be cut by 4.5 percent for the rest of the current fiscal year and 9 percent over the next two fiscal years.

State Budget Director John Chilton told state legislators that the cuts are better than increasing taxes, borrowing money or ignoring the growing financial liability in the state pension systems.

“Are these severe? Yeah,” he said of the proposed cuts. “But the amount of liability that needs to be paid at some point is huge.”

Combined, the pension systems for state employees and teachers are short about $30 billion in the money the state needs to send out checks to current and future retirees.

Jacob Ryan, WFPL

The attorney hired to represent Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky in a lawsuit over abortion services says he’ll ask a judge to dismiss the case.

Speaking Friday for the first time on behalf of the Planned Parenthood branch, Louisville attorney Thomas Clay claims the suit is not based on facts.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services filed the lawsuit this week against the Planned Parenthood branch, seeking more than $900,000 in fines.

“There are a number of issues that are raised in this complaint and we intend to assert every lawful defense we can and pursue any other legal remedy that might be available,” Clay said.

State officials allege the health services provider violated state law after providing 23 abortions earlier this year without first having obtained a proper license.

Thinkstock

There will be more court-appointed attorneys available to represent poor people in court under Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed budget.

In his proposal, Bevin set aside funds to add 44 lawyers to the Department of Public Advocacy’s ranks of 333 public defenders.

Ed Monahan, the state’s chief public defender, said the move would help the agency reduce caseloads for its overworked advocates.

“We’re very fortunate that this governor has recognized that if we had additional capacity, that it would not only deal with the unethical levels of cases we have, but it will be one of the best business investments that can be made when you look at this criminal justice system,” Monahan said during a presentation to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Justice and the Judiciary on Thursday.

Monahan said the move is a step in the right direction, but the agency will still be subject to other reductions if Bevin’s proposal to cut most state agencies by 4.5 percent this year and 9 percent for the next two years is approved by the General Assembly.

Kentucky public defenders represent clients who can’t afford to hire a lawyer. They handled about 153,000 cases in 2015, up from 137,000 in 2006.

Kentucky Agency Suing Planned Parenthood Over Abortions

Feb 18, 2016
Jacob Ryan, WFPL

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin's administration is asking a judge to penalize a Louisville Planned Parenthood facility for performing abortions without a valid license.

Bevin, a staunchly anti-abortion Republican, ordered abortions halted at the downtown facility after learning last month that it was performing the procedures. Planned Parenthood says it got approval from former Gov. Steve Beshear's administration, which left office in December.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services sued Thursday in Jefferson County Circuit Court, seeking up to nearly $700,000 in fines. The lawsuit says some materials submitted with Planned Parenthood's application were a "complete sham" and the cabinet's former inspector general was a "sympathetic advocate willing to ignore law."

Judi Morrison, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, says the group was reviewing the lawsuit Thursday afternoon.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Kentucky Medicaid beneficiaries and other welfare recipients will apply for services using a new website called Benefind starting Feb. 29.

Medicaid recipients previously applied for benefits using Kynect, the state health exchange that Gov. Matt Bevin has promised to dismantle by the end of the year.

Health and Human Services Cabinet Vickie Yates Glisson said the plan does away with the paper-version of the application — the program will be entirely online.

“Whether you live in any of our 120 counties, there should be access to a computer system that you will be able to come in and access these programs,” Glisson said.

The new program will also serve as an application hub for other state health, food and cash assistance programs, replacing the Kentucky Automated Management Eligibility System.

Bevin's Proposed Cuts Include Funding for Watchdog Agency

Feb 14, 2016
Ryland Barton, WKU Public Radio

As part of his proposed budget cuts, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin exempted what he considered to be key government services. Those not protected include agencies charged with holding him and his administration accountable.

Katie Gabhart, the executive director of the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, said the proposed 4.5 percent budget cut this year and the 9 percent cut over the next two years will devastate the agency. She said it would force her to lay off the agency's sole investigator and auditor, two employees who already work part time.

"We will be an investigative and auditing agency with no investigator and auditor," Gabhart told House lawmakers this week. "Public servants are going to violate the ethics code ... and if they know we have an ethics commission with so few resources that we can't enforce the code, then what is the point of having one?"

The cuts also include the Registry of Election Finance, the agency that makes sure politicians follow the rules when they raise and spend money for their campaigns. Executive Director John Steffen said the agency could not sustain a 9 percent cut and would not be able to hire an auditor. In response, House lawmakers suggested changing state law so fewer candidates would have to file disclosure reports.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL News

In one of his first community meetings since taking office, Gov. Matt Bevin spoke Friday with residents in Hazard about the decline of the coal industry and the area’s economic depression.

Kentucky has lost more than 11,000 coal industry jobs since 2009, and the Eastern Kentucky coalfields have been the hardest hit. Numerous factors have contributed to the decline: competition from natural gas, environmental regulations and rising production costs. But for the past eight years, many Kentucky politicians have placed the blame solely on President Barack Obama and his environmental policies.

Bevin largely stayed away from using the “war on coal” rhetoric* during his community meeting in Hazard, though he did include several pointed mentions of EPA “overreach” and blamed Obama for the region’s woes.

“The EPA and this current presidential administration have absolutely gutted coal,” Bevin said. “Our current president said he was going to bankrupt the coal industry, and boy has he worked his hardest to make sure he’s done exactly that. I tell you, the fall of 2016 can’t come soon enough as far as I’m concerned.”

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s efforts to reshape the state’s approach to the Affordable Care Act have led to a political battle of governors unprecedented in recent state history.

On Thursday, former Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, launched a political nonprofit organization to advocate for key policies implemented by his administration, which ended in December. Those policies included an expansion of Medicaid and the creation of a state health insurance exchange, called Kynect.

Both policies are being threatened by Bevin’s administration, which is seeking to add new stipulations to Medicaid enrollment and to dismantle Kynect, instead sending Kentuckians to the federal health care exchange.

Beshear’s new group is called Save Kentucky Healthcare, a 501c(4) organization.

“Save Kentucky Healthcare is committed to continuing Kentucky’s dramatic success in expanding health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Now, why? Because it’s working,” Beshear said during a news conference Thursday in Louisville.

Gage Skidmore via Flickr Creative Commons

Former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear says he is starting an advocacy group to oppose Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s plans to dismantle the state’s health insurance exchange, Kynect, and scale back its Medicaid expansion.

Beshear is scheduled to announce “Save Kentucky Healthcare” during events in Louisville and Lexington on Thursday. In a news release, Beshear said he is troubled by Bevin’s plans to roll back what he called Kentucky’s nation-leading progress in improving the health of its people.

Beshear left office in December. During his eight years in office, he expanded Kentucky’s Medicaid program and created a state-operated health insurance exchange where eligible Kentuckians could purchase discounted private health insurance plans. He did so under the Affordable Care Act.

Bevin criticized both programs as too expensive. He says he will dismantle Kynect by the end of the year and is trying to replace the Medicaid expansion with a different program.

Bevin Wants to Downsize Scope of KentuckyWired Project

Feb 6, 2016
Jacob Ryan, WFPL

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin wants to downsize a proposed 3,400-mile fiber optic network meant to make high-speed Internet possible throughout the state.

Bevin told the Saving Our Appalachian Region meeting Friday the project is off track. He said he still supports installing the network in eastern Kentucky.

A group of private businesses borrowed $289 million last year to begin constructing the network. Kentucky  government officials promised to pay the companies about $28 million a year for Internet service, which the companies would then use to pay off the loan.

But a key piece of how Kentucky  planned to pay back the loan has fallen apart. Bevin said Friday he wants to try and renegotiate with Macquarie Capital, the Australian-based investment company that is leading the project.

WKU

In an e-mail to faculty and staff late Wednesday afternoon, WKU President Gary Ransdell said Governor Matt Bevin's proposed budget cuts to higher education present a substantial challenge to the university.

Bevin's proposal calls for a 4.5 percent budget cut this fiscal year. That translates to $3.3 million out of WKU's budget by the end of June. Nine percent reductions would go into effect after that.

"There are many details of this plan that are yet to be understood, and with regard to performance funding, those details have yet to be defined," Ransdell said in his message. "So we are a long way from fully knowing how WKU will be impacted by these proposals.  I am confident, however, that WKU will fare well in any measure that is outcome or performance based.

Ransdell says the budget contains at least one bright spot for WKU. Gov. Bevin's budget proposal contains an equity funding appropriation for both WKU and Northern Kentucky University. Ransdell says the appropriation would held "level the playing field for our students who are paying a disproportionate share of their education in comparison to students at other Kentucky universities."

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