WV gubernatorial candidate calls for end to Thoroughbred subsidies
Note: This article was updated at 8:30 p.m. on June 3 with the addition of the third paragraph down.
by Frank Vespe
Bill Cole, the West Virginia Senate President who is the Republican candidate for Governor, suggested today that subsidies to horse racing — which come from slot machine revenues and were, in fact, the original rationale for allowing slots in the first place — be ended.
The statement came amid a contentious dispute in the Mountain State over the state’s budget. The state legislature had met beginning in mid-May in special session to close a $271 million gap in the state’s fiscal 2017 budget. If no budget is in place by July 1, the state government will shut down.
The proposed budget passed by the Republican-controlled legislature leaves Thoroughbred racing “fully funded,” according to Joe Funkhouser of West Virginia Racing United.
Cole, trailing Democrat Jim Justice in early polls, urged Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D) to sign the budget, calling it, in a statement, “a good first step forward” to help the state alleviate its longer-term budget woes.
In the longer run, Cole said, “We need a governor who is committed to reforming the way government serves the people to truly solve our fiscal crisis.”
He added that there are “large areas of government” where the Governor has substantial or even exclusive authority to rein in spending.
One way to do so, Cole said, “would be to eliminate subsidies paid to dog racing breeders, horse racing breeders and large casino gambling corporations which could total more than $65 million.”
Tomblin said Friday through a spokesman that he will veto the entire budget because it takes too much money from the state’s Rainy Day Fund.