CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Representatives of municipalities, county commissions, and thoroughbred and greyhound breeders and owners all spoke out Tuesday against a Tomblin administration bill to cut their state Lottery subsidies by 15 percent.
Racing industry representatives contend the cut would be the final blow to horse and dog racing at the state's four racetrack casinos.
Raymond Funkhouser, president of the Charles Town Horsemen's Benevolent Protective Association, said the administration portrayal of the measure as a "spending haircut" is inaccurate.
"I prefer to call it the scalping bill for the horse industry. It will destroy us," he said during a House Finance Committee public hearing in House chambers.
"This bill would destroy a green, vibrant industry essential to tourism," he added.
The legislation (HB4333) would impose 15 percent cuts to more than a dozen Lottery appropriations that are built into the state Lottery law.
All of the roughly 30 speakers against the bill were either from the racing industry, which would face a cut of about $13 million, based on $87.6 million in Lottery subsidies in fiscal year 2013; or representing city and county governments, which face about a $6 million cut, based on a $40.4 million appropriation in 2013.
"Counties are being asked to share the pain, yet counties did not cause this [budget] shortfall," said Patti Hamilton, with the West Virginia Association of Counties.
She said much of the current state budget deficit is self-inflicted, caused by a series of tax cuts approved by the Legislature, totaling about $425 million a year in lost revenue.
Andrew Gunnoe, Kanawha County deputy manager, said the 15 percent cut would cost the county about $225,000 a year.
He noted the county has used its Lottery funds to provide $100,000 a year for Clay Center admissions for low-income children, as well as a $100,000 grant to help the Sissonville Volunteer Fire Department rebuild its fire station.