New PA governor’s proposed budget does not call for shift of PRHDTF revenue

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: March 14, 2023

Members of the Pennsylvania Equine Coalition on March 13 expressed their appreciation to Gov. Josh Shapiro, whose initial budget proposal submitted to the state legislature doesn’t recommend shifting revenue from the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Trust Fund to other programs.

The previous governor, Tom Wolf, had sought to use about $200 million—more than 80% of the PRHDTF—to create a college scholarship program but the proposal was rejected by the legislature. Those attempts, as well as others in the previous decade, created uncertainty for those making plans to breed mares, both Thoroughbred and Standardbred.

The PEC noted the PRHDTF is the major source of funding for breeding incentives and racing purses in the Commonwealth.

“The support of the governor and legislature is very instrumental to the success of the breeding and racing industry in Pennsylvania,” Brian Sanfratello, Executive Secretary of the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association, said in a release. “Pennsylvania’s breeding and racing industry is made up of many diverse small businesses that contribute to jobs and the preservation of hundreds of thousands of acres of open space. Breeders, owners, and trainers in the racing industry are also significant drivers of other sectors of the agriculture industry, including hay, straw, grain, and mushroom farmers; feed mills and tack shops; and veterinarians.

“A strong, viable breeding and racing sector is an important part of ensuring the overall stability of the broader agricultural industry in Pennsylvania.”

“Gov. Shapiro’s budget proposal signals his recognition of the importance of the racing and breeding sector to the overall state economy, and we thank him for his support,” said Russell Williams, who serves as President of the Standardbred Breeders Association of Pennsylvania. “The equine sector is the second-largest segment of Pennsylvania’s overall agriculture industry, and we believe we are in an excellent position for continued growth.

“We look forward to working with Gov. Shapiro and the legislature on initiatives that will strengthen Pennsylvania’s breeding and racing sector and, in the process, benefit the broader agricultural industry.”

The state Department of Agriculture oversees horse racing in Pennsylvania through the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission.

The PEC said breeding and racing sector supports hundreds of small businesses and 23,000 family-sustaining jobs, delivers a $1.6 billion economic impact, generates $69 million in annual tax revenue, and protects hundreds of thousands of acres of open space.

“The impact of the racing and breeding sector extends well beyond those who work at a racetrack or breed horses,” the PEC said. “Purse money earned by a horse enables the owner to buy hay and straw from farmers, feed from local feed mills, as well as pay the horse’s jockey, trainer, blacksmith, groom, veterinarian, and equine dentist. In addition, countless small businesses in the manufacturing, retail and construction industries count horsemen and breeders among their major customers for horse trailers and vehicles, feed equipment, riding tack and other supplies, the construction or repair of barns and fencing, and more.”

The PEC is made up of the six horsemen’s groups and breeders’ associations in the state: the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, PHBA, SBA of Pennsylvania, Meadows Standardbred Owners Association, and Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen’s Association. It was formed in 2009 to advocate for horsemen and breeders and to educate lawmakers and the public on the economic impact of the racing and breeding industry.

A 2016 racing reform law supported by the PEC set aside 1% of the overall annual total of slots revenue that goes to the PRHDTF for marketing purposes. The funds support marketing programs developed by PEC members as well as a statewide program through the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Association and the PHRC.