FRANKFORT (AP) — Kentuckians will not have a new driver’s license, some high school graduates will have to wait for free college tuition and some parents won’t be able to send their children to public preschool programs after Gov. Matt Bevin issued his final round of vetoes on Wednesday.
The first-term Republican governor vetoed all or parts of seven bills that were passed on the final day of the legislative session. State lawmakers cannot override his vetoes because they have already adjourned for the year.
Bevin’s vetoes included portions of the state’s two-year, $68.8 billion operating budget. He eliminated $1 million for a colon cancer screening program, $2 million for breast and cervical cancer screening programs and $20,000 for lung cancer research. He also nixed $1.1 million to pediatric facilities that provide emergency shelter services for children.
Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto said Health and Family Services Cabinet Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson could still choose to fund those programs, she just won’t be required by law to pay for them.
“The governor is leaving that up to her discretion,” Ditto said.
Other programs were clearly eliminated, including new requirements for a public preschool program. The legislature would have required a family of four earning up to $48,600 a year to be eligible for public preschool. But Bevin vetoed the new requirements.
“Mandated expansion of eligibility, however desirable, is not prudent in tight financial times,” Bevin said.
The budget included $9.4 million to pay the community college tuition for most Kentucky high school graduates. The program was supposed to start in the fall, but Bevin vetoed the money. Instead, Bevin said the program should begin in 2017. The budget included $15.9 million for scholarships in 2017, and Bevin did not veto that.
He did, however, veto House Bill 626 which contained the rules for the scholarship program. That means lawmakers will most likely have to pass another bill next year to keep the program alive.
“The students would have been able to attend college beginning this fall tuition-free and be ready to work upon graduation,” Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo said. “No forward-thinking governor would’ve acted in this way. It is a sad and unfortunate day for all of Kentucky.”
Bevin’s vetoes also mean Kentuckians will not have a new driver’s license. The federal government has required all states to update their driver’s licenses to comply with new security standards. Senate bill 245 would have given Kentucky drivers the option of bringing in their birth certificate and two proofs of residency to get a new license. Beginning in 2020, anyone who does not have the new license won’t be able to board a domestic flight without a passport or a passport card.
The deadline to comply with the law has already passed, but the federal government gave Kentucky an extension. That extension expires Oct. 10. Kentucky officials plan to ask for another extension. But former Department of Vehicle Regulations Commissioner Rodney Kuhl told lawmakers last month that the federal government would most likely reject the extension unless the legislature passed this bill. Bevin announced the appointment of a new commissioner, John-Mark Hack, on Wednesday.
Bevin supported the bill and publicly urged the legislature to pass it. But then he changed his mind. He spoke to the state Republican Convention on Saturday, where delegates passed a resolution opposing the bill because they view it as the government intruding on their lives.
“It has become increasingly clear that there is tremendous opposition and misunderstanding about this bill,” Bevin said. “We also owe the voters of Kentucky the ability to see what effect, if any, the next presidential administration will have on this issue.”
Bevin’s vetoes also gave him more control over state spending. He sliced specific passages from the bill that appear to give him the authority to change how much state agencies can spend. He also removed language empowering the Legislative Research Commission to review and audit government expenses. The reports would have been public information.