Make Subsidy Cuts Permanent

Substantial sacrifices are being made by West Virginians to keep our state budget balanced. Cuts have been made in services government provides to Mountain State residents, and more of the same is on the horizon. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and legislators are prepared to take a large chunk out of a fund that had been reserved for use only in emergencies.

With that in mind, it is only right that the state’s gambling casinos and horse- and dog-racing industries share some of the burden.

Earlier this year, the governor proposed balancing the budget for the coming year by making modest cuts in state subsidies for the racing industry. In addition, he recommended legislators take about $80 million out of the “rainy day” emergency fund.

For a few weeks, it seemed as if lawmakers were bowing to whining by the dog- and horse-racing interests – as has been usual for several years. State senators had passed a budget bill that relied on a $125 million raid of the rainy day fund.

But a bill in the House of Delegates calls for changes that could set that back to Tomblin’s $80 million range. The House bill reallocates about $20 million from legalized gambling that otherwise would have gone into an infrastructure improvement fund. It also eliminates $10 million in subsidies to help casinos modernize equipment. Finally, it reduces support for the horse- and dog-racing industries, by around $10 million a year.

No doubt lobbyists for the casinos and racing industry will spend today, the last day of the regular legislative session, pulling strings to defeat the House bill. Lawmakers in both the House and state Senate should reject their arguments.

If anything, the bill should be altered in one respect – to make the cuts permanent, rather than only for the coming fiscal year.