Revive Racing Industry Cuts

When time expired Saturday night in this year’s regular session of the West Virginia Legislature, the state’s horse- and dog-racing industries had managed to strike a blow against an attempt to reduce the massive subsidies they enjoy.

But the blow was not fatal. Thoughtful, reasonable legislators still can manage a come-from-behind win for taxpayers.

Earlier in the session, House of Delegates members approved a bill that would provide between $35 million and $40 million for the state’s general fund budget in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

As we have reported, the money would have come from three sources related to legalized gambling, including subsidies for horse and dog racing. The two industries rake in about $90 million a year.

Included in the House bill were small, one-year cuts in those subsidies.

But on Saturday night, senators allowed the bill to fall victim to delaying tactics.

Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, proposed an amendment to the bill as approved by the House. Snyder’s district includes the Charles Town racetrack and casino.

In explaining his amendment, Snyder took so much time on the Senate floor that by the time lawmakers approved it and sent the amended version back to the House, there was not time left in the session for that body to act.

So the bill died.

It can be resurrected.

Though the Legislature’s regular session has ended, lawmakers remain in Charleston to work on the budget. That gives them an opportunity – an obligation, in fact – to deal with the measure Snyder attempted to sink.

Without the bill in question, lawmakers will have to take about $120 million from the state’s Rainy Day fund to balance next year’s budget.

But approval of the bill’s provisions would reduce that raid on the emergency fund by between $35 million and $40 million.

Clearly, lawmakers should include the bill’s provisions in budget legislation. The state’s horse- and dog-racing interests have raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies. It is long past time to stop rewarding their greed.