On May 11, the Pennsylvania Senate passed an alternate budget that would restore nearly all funding to the state’s horseracing industry. The $27.6 billion plan passed 39-8 by the Senate cuts only $3 million from the subsidies.
Governor Corbett in February proposed a budget that would have redirected $72 million a year over the next three years from the Race Horse Development Fund to other state agricultural programs formerly funded through the general fund. The cuts angered thoroughbred and Standardbred breeders and owners, who have made investments totaling more than $62 million in Pennsylvania on the understanding that breeders’ funds and purses funded by Act 71, the Race Horse Development and Gaming Act, passed in 2004, would continue.
The subsidies total approximately $275 million a year, and have revitalized the state’s equine industry while breeding and racing has diminished markedly in other jurisdictions. According to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, non-racing equine jobs increased from 13,870 in 2001 to 41,100 in 2008, and the value of the non-racing equine industry increased from $780 million to $3 billion over the same time period.
Thoroughbred and Standardbred breeders and owners formed the Pennsylvania Equine Coalition early this year to lobby against the cuts.
Todd Mosstoller, executive director of the Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, told the Daily Racing Form that horsemen were relieved the program was spared and that he was confident the Republican-controlled House of Representatives would maintain the racing subsidy program when it votes on its own budget.
He said that horsemen would continue to lobby against the $3 million cut as negotiations continue. “It’s not the monetary amount, it’s the message,” he said. “We have a lot of people who have come here and who continue to invest in racing, and we think the cut discourages continued investment, no matter how small it is.”
Higher than expected revenues erased much of the need for the austere budget Corbett had proposed in February. The shortfall was projected in February to be $500 million, but as of May 9 had decreased to a projected $288 million. Corbett’s budget also contained $350 million in corporate tax cuts.
On May 22, the House Appropriations Committee voted, along party lines, to send the Senate budget plan to the House floor for a vote during the week of June 4. The current fiscal year ends on June 30.