The budget debate slogs on in the Senate as Democratic Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson returned, briefly, after being hospitalized yesterday. By law, each budget bill needs 32 votes to pass, and with no Republicans expected to cast a vote in favor, the Democrats, with their 32-30 'majority,' need each and every member present and accounted for. But in a rare moment of
bipartisanship cooperation (I think a more appropriate term), Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos allowed her to cast a vote in favor of all of the bills and go home.
Meanwhile, buried in the Budget: Transportation, Economic Development and Environmental Conservation Article VII Bill, on page 39, is a clause which will effect the wallets of horsemen throughout the state.
§ 112. Fee for the start of a horse in New York state pari-mutuel races. 1. In order to provide supplemental funding to support the operations of the state racing and wagering board, a fee in the amount of ten dollars shall be assessed and paid upon every horse entered in a pari-mutuel race in New York state that actually starts in the race....The state racing and wagering board shall, as a condition of racing, require any corporation authorized under this chapter to conduct pari-mutuel betting at a race meeting or races run thereat, to require that each owner racing a horse shall have placed on deposit at the time of entry with the horsemen's bookkeeper or similar office of such corporation the required fee in the amount of ten dollars per horse entered in a pari-mutuel race.Although it's not specifically stated in the bill, I'm told that the money is to go towards drug testing, a cost which, at one time, was borne by the tracks...at a time when they used to make money. Joe Faraldo, the president of the Standardbred Owners Association of NY (back from Monticello where he competed on Wednesday against a group of visiting Italian amateurs [he threatened to fatten them up beforehand at Don Peppe's]), feels that the tracks should, at the very least, bear a portion of the payments in the same 75/25 split as the tracks and horsemen receive from VLT's (approx 32% vs 8.75% for the horsemen). (And this of course at the harness tracks, where there actually are slots!) Faraldo figures that the fee will cost the state's horsemen a nice chunk of change while the tracks are off the hook:
"Annually, NYRA runs 253 race cards with an average of nine races, for 2335 races; Finger Lakes, 159 race cards at approx 8/9 races per card - 1431 races; and all harness tracks in NYS a combined 939 race cards averaging 10 races/card - 9390 races. Rough estimate (underestimated on harness side) = 13,000 total races conducted. Taking 10 as the average number of starters/horses stepping on track in a given year times $10 a starter = $1.3 million dollars. Nice piece of change all coming out of our pocket solely. This while we argue that the tracks don't give a damn about racing and while the tracks look to get extended hours and table games. Those two items alone would account for an estimated 20% more revenue. Granted this is a shared benefit but the cost of the ten bucks a dance belongs just to us. What's next? Maybe nothing can be done but we all need to educate as best we can whoever we can so that this logic doesn't end up having us some day pay entry fees for overnight races or pay for the track maintenance or other costs that are the tracks'."
- What's next in the 20th Congressional District is absentee ballots, lawyers, waiting, lawyers, more hot air, and more lawyers. The race to replace Kirsten Gillibrand is a dead heat, with Democrat Scott Murphy leading Republican Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco by a mere 25 votes out of some 155,000 counted thus far! Wow, talk about a barnburner!