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State Lawmakers At The Gate For Fight Over Horse Race Funding

Horsemen were up in arms almost immediately after Governor Corbett's February proposal to make a $72 million cut to the fund used to boost horse racing prizes. Now, they have the support of key Republican legislators.

The Horse Race Development fund distributed about $230 million in gaming revenue to the horseracing industry last year, but under the Governor's new budget, the total would drop to about 160 million dollars in 2012-2013.

Most of the reduction­, about $72 million, would go to agriculture efforts, including research and extension, veterinary programs, and county fairs.

House Republican whip Stan Saylor said those programs shouldn't be funded at the expense of the horse racing industry.

"This is not the place to be finding and taking money to fund those programs," said Saylor. "So we need to work hard in the General Assembly to make sure we find those funds for the other programs that the governor wants to fund, but not from here."

Representative Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks County), added it's not a partisan issue, but a matter of business sense.

"If we don't have the right amount of purses for the racing industry here in Pennsylvania, these horses can pick up and go to Maryland, they can go to the other states, to Delaware, to New York," DiGirolamo said.

Horsemen say if the funding is cut, they may take their animals — and the jobs that come with them — to greener, out-of-state pastures.

The House Republican whip says he's talked to the governor's office and House majority leadership about walking back the proposed cut to the horsemen's fund.