An editorial from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register
WHEELING, W.Va. — It should have come as no surprise that a bill intended to get West Virginia out of the greyhound racing business has finished out of the running in Legislature. Shelving the measure with just a week and a half left in the Legislature’s current session may have merely accelerated the inevitable.
As we reported this week, a bill in the Senate would have cut off state subsidies for greyhound racing, effectively ending it at the Wheeling Island and Cross Lanes tracks. In exchange, greyhound owners would have received a $36.5 million “buyout” from the state.
About $29.3 million a year in gambling proceeds from the two racetrack-casinos is diverted from state coffers each year to prop up the greyhound racing industry. Enacting the Senate bill would have ended those subsidies – something that should have been done years ago.
But the measure was controversial among both advocates and opponents of ending the subsidies. With time in the legislative session growing short, controversy would have taken up lawmakers’ time, possibly at the expense of progress on other important bills.
Lawmakers should not drop the idea, of course. During the summer months, while interim committee meetings are being held, disagreements over this year’s bill should be discussed. Perhaps a reasonable compromise can be hammered out in time for the regular legislative session next winter.
In the meantime, however, lawmakers should not push the issue entirely off their plates.
After the normal session ends on March 14, legislators and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will begin work in earnest on a state budget for the year beginning July 1. Because they are having trouble making ends meet, a source of new revenue would be welcome.
Last year at about this time, lawmakers agreed to trim subsidies for both the dog- and horse-racing industries, by about 15 percent. Similar cuts should be on the table for the budget session planned for later this month.
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