June 17, 2015

Dear Senator,

The Pennsylvania Equine Coalition has reviewed SB 352 as amended and strongly opposes the bill as drafted.  The Equine Coalition urges Senators to oppose the bill should it come to the floor for a vote.

One provision added to the bill through the Vogel amendment would give the State Racing Commission unlimited access to the money in the Race Horse Development Fund, essentially providing the commission with a blank check. As drafted, the language states that should the State Racing Commission run over budget, for any reason, additional funding will automatically be deducted from the Race Horse Development Fund.  No limits are placed on the transfer of these funds.

We are also concerned by the increased power the legislation provides to the Department of Agriculture over the State Racing Commission.  This is particularly true following the 2014 report by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale which found that the Department of Agriculture over billed or could not document more than $5 million in costs it billed to the State Racing Fund.

The amendment also shifts additional funding burdens on to the Racing Commission and by extension the Race Horse Development Fund while reducing the obligations on racetrack operators.  This will further reduce the funding available for racing purses and breeders incentives in Pennsylvania. Additional expenditures from the Race Horse Development Fund will continue to send a negative message to the investors in our industry and will result in loss of jobs, breeders, open space and economic development in Pennsylvania.

Another key provision of the legislation is language that will combine the harness and thoroughbred racing commissions under the oversight of a single entity.  Because of the vast differences in breeds and racing protocols, we believe it is vital that each breed maintain its own commission.  We have seen no evidence to support claims that this will result in any substantive cost savings.

The coalition also opposes various other provisions of the bill and has communicated our concerns with them to Senators over the course of the past few months.  These concerns remain unaddressed in the bill in its current form.

In conclusion, the Pennsylvania Equine Coalition respectfully requests Senators to oppose the bill should it be brought to the floor for a vote.

Sincerely,

The Pennsylvania Equine Coalition

Kim P. Hankins, Executive Director, Meadows Standardbred Owners Association

Brian N. Sanfratello, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association

Ron Battoni, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen’s Association

Todd Mostoller, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association

Joe Thompson, Standardbred Breeders Association of Pennsylvania

Salvatore M. DeBunda, PA Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association