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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Kill dog racing already

Hoppy Kercheval, the dean of West Virginia Statehouse reporters, had a commentary, "Time for the state to give up on dog racing."

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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  1. The Republicans took control of the WV Legislature four session ago and still have not repealed the $15 million "dog breeding" fund. Legislation was introduced this year to repeal it and it has become stalled in a Republican-majority committee.
    Wrong again: Justice's current (nor his first) budget proposal does not call for the largest tax increase in state history.
    Republicans are passing through to a vote two of the Governor's proposals which would raise taxes and fees on services. Thus, the Rs are caving to new taxes. Why?
    And no matter what one thinks of the Justice budget, the Rs still have not provided a line-by-line budget bill and what they propose to cut.
    Clever line: The voters elected a casino operator. No, they elected an immensely successful businessman to shake up the political establishment and bring his CEO leadership and vision to boost the state's well-being. Sound familiar?

    1. As you know, Republicans had bigger things to do the first two years after 82 of Democratic Party destruction of the economy. Passing Right to Work normalized West Virginia as most states are right to work. Ending Prevailing Wage brought the state out of the 1930s. Sadly, Justice lied when he said he would not increase taxes and instead rigged the revenue estimate and demanded the biggest tax increase in state history, surpassing Caperton's. This is what Democratic governors do. They lie. You blame Republicans for Jim Justice being a big liar. I laugh.

    2. Justice's current budget bill proposes approximately $350 in new taxes. Caperton raised taxes by $390 million and in 1998 no less. What would $392 million be now adjusted for inflation? But if you wish to stick to your Alternative Facts - have at it.
      The Rs have railed against Tomblin's nepotistic dog breeder fund for years and years (I think it should be axed). So what do they do once they take control and promise to sink it? Turn a blind eye and ignore its repeal ... four years and counting now. So in four years, the Rs have passed Right To Work and repealed Prevailing Wage - both done last year. You mean the Rs didn't have time to address the dog breeders fund in those four years? Talk about laughable.
      I don't blame Rs for Jim Justice lying about his campaign pledge not to raise taxes. But keep the straw man argument coming. No one is buying them. I blame the Rs for this: No defined plan to move the state forward. Obviously you disagree with Justice. So be it. But what are the Rs offering? Crickets chirping.

  2. Instead of racing, how about rescuing? My son's on his second, both former racers. They are the sweetest gentlest dogs. Just give them a little exercise and then settle back for long periods of them being couch potatoes. No maintenance.

    Get government completely out of this stuff. I've been to Charles Town Casino and whatever once. Waste of time and waste of money. And, their buffet sucks. Whatever government touches turns to crap. Just say no.

  3. With the coal industry recovering I would surmise that revenues will be increasing. But all Democrats know is to Tax and Spend. Any surplus, whether by tax increases or revenue increases will immediately be earmarked for something else. It's time to break the cycle. The governor made his income estimate. The legislature balanced the budget based on that. Enough said. It's time for the governor to stop the histrionics. - Elric

    1. The WV Legislature has NOT balanced the budget. The Rs in the WV Legislature have only said they would not approve expenditures above the state's current income. Everyone acknowledges that would mean approximately (at minimum) $150 million in cuts to existing agencies/programs. The Rs have not provided any info as to what they will cut. The Governor has earmarked his surplus for infrastructure improvements. Why is it when a D governor proposes this, it is a bad idea. But when a R president proposes spending $1 trillion (with a "t"), it is a great idea?

  4. "Kill dog racing already"

    I'm sure you meant no harm to dogs, but as a doggie lover I wish you had written it "Kill dog-racing already," with the dash, so there's no mistaking it's the sport and not the animals that should be put down.

    1. I used to teach English, so excuse me for being a grammar Nazi, but it's a hyphen, not a dash, and even without it it's clear Don meant kill the industry and not to kill furry beasties. Take out the word "racing" and the sentence makes as much sense as an Al Franken soliloquy.

  5. Hey, I've done more than my fair share over the years in keeping WVs economy chugging by rafting the New and Gauley (nothing knocks out a hangover like cold river water). I can't do it all.