Don’t Raid the Horse Racing Fund in Pennsylvania

Opinion Piece

“In his 2020 state budget, Governor Tom Wolf has proposed student debt forgiveness for our PA state system graduates when they agree to stay in PA for 6 years after graduation. This is a bold initiative and worthy of exploration. The second oldest state in the US needs these skilled, eager young people to stay, work, and make a life in PA. On the surface there is not much to object to; however, the Governor’s proposal would be paid for with $200 million from the PA State Horse Racing Development Fund.

This fund was created by Act 71 of 2004 and uses proceeds from slots to support breeding of top-level race horses, to further strengthen our agricultural economy. In this budget scenario, the issue of addressing PA student loan debt now quickly becomes swapping futures, those of hard-working families and business owners for the futures of our kids. The film Sophie’s Choice comes to mind.

I strongly reject the perception that the horse racing industry in our state is run exclusively by wealthy horse owners and that the only ones who benefit economically are owners. Many owners form partnerships in order to share costs, and the cost to breed, train and care for a race horse is steep. It’s also a well- documented fact that this industry supports our local, regional, and state economy.

The list of direct and downstream businesses includes breeders, owners, trainers, farms that lease space, the breeding and training facility owners and workers, mechanics, manure haulers and composters, small and large animal veterinarians, veterinary pharmaceuticals, grain and hay farmers, feed and supply businesses (a business my family was in for nearly 100 years), shipping and transport, hotel and restaurant, software and many more. At this point…”