The state subsidies dog racing to the tune of $15 million as part of subsidies to the gambling industry -- "tourism" as they say. (Do you really think rafting down the New River attracts 54.6 million visitors a year? If so, plenty of oceanfront property is available in Poca, West Virginia.)
Here is what Hoppy wrote:
The breeders have argued before the Legislature that dog racing is an economic engine with hundreds of direct and indirect jobs that generate a substantial return on investment. And, in fairness, West Virginia is essentially a partner in the greyhound business so it can be reasonably argued that the state has a responsibility to try to keep the greyhound industry vibrant.
However, the economic reality is that dog racing could not exist in West Virginia without a substantial influx of money that does not come from the dog races themselves. By definition that’s a subsidy and it’s one West Virginia can no longer afford.
The bill currently under consideration in the Legislature would transfer the money from the breeders fund and the purses to the Excess Lottery Revenue Fund where it could be appropriated by the Legislature to other state functions or simply brought to the bottom line of necessary spending cuts.
West Virginia could maintain its partnership with the greyhounds if the industry was growing and the state’s coffers were flush, but that’s not the case. Tough times mean hard choices have to be made; now is the appropriate time for West Virginia to separate itself from dog racing.This would kill dog racing in West Virginia. Just as well. It's a cruel business that cannot sustain itself.
I'd get rid of the horse racing, too.
Horse racing actually died in the the state in the 1990s. "60 Minutes" did an expose on the dog meat horses the Mountaineer track north of Wheeling ran.
Casino interests bought and used the tracks to enter the state. They turned them into racinos to prod neighboring states to approve casino gambling.
First, they introduced video slot machines -- called video lottery to get around the state constitution's ban on gambling.
The casinos agreed to a hefty tax, as well as subsidies to the racing industry. Senate Finance Chairman Earl Ray Tomblin family raked in $250,000 a year "dog breeder" money. That got his approval of the plan.
He became governor in 2011.
For 20 years, the state raked in taxes. Then neighboring states added casinos. Down went taxes and Republicans began talking of cutting what was then more than $100 million a year in racing subsidies. It has been trimmed.
With Tomblin gone, the dog industry has no lobbyist in the Governor's Mansion.
Last fall, voters elected a casino operator as governor. Given that the casinos would love to shut down the dog racing they are tied to, that will go a long way toward ending this subsidy.
Voters thought that although he was a Democrat, billionaire Jim Justice was too rich to be bought. Apparently he is too rich to pay taxes, as he owes $4.4 million in taxes.
Maybe he is too rich to be bought, but he is not too rich to lie.
He promised no new taxes.
Then he laid the groundwork to try to force a Republican Legislature to pass the largest tax increase in the state's history. Justice did this by dropping estimated revenues to less than $4.1 billion while proposing more than $4.7 billion in spending.
While legislators can cut spending, they cannot spend more than a governor's the revenue estimate without dipping into the rainy day fund or raising taxes. They can do both,
Justice trying to force a tax increase by decreasing revenues by 8% may be an attempt to replace or at least offset casino taxes with soda taxes. When revenues exceed his estimate, he will declare himself a financial wizard and take credit for a surplus. Whee!
Then with a surplus, he could call for dropping the casino taxes to save the industry as competition elsewhere takes customers.
We shall see what happens next.
I would not give casinos a dime more. In fact, I would get rid of all their subsidies and raise their taxes. But my voice is in the wilderness.
Hoppy is on to something, though.
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