Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s decision to cut $20 million in funding to New Jersey’s horse racing industry is being met with criticism from two local Republican lawmakers who say the governor is jeopardizing the industry.
The funding was signed into law in 2019 as a way to help Monmouth Park (thoroughbred racing), the Meadowlands (thoroughbred racing and harness racing) and Freehold Raceway (harness racing) bolster purses and increase races, according to a press release from the New Jersey Assembly Republicans.
Last year was the first year for the program, which was designed to run for five years, and proved to be successful while meeting or exceeding economic growth benchmarks in the 2019 law, according to the press release.
“The state’s horse racing industry stands alone in providing economic, environmental and entertainment values like no other business in New Jersey,” Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-Monmouth, Ocean, Middlesex, Burlington) was quoted as saying in the press release.
“With an estimated 42,000 horses on more than 7,200 farms that consist of 176,000 acres of tax-paying open space and green pastureland, the horse racing and breeding industry provides more than 13,000 jobs with a majority of the jobs being held by thousands of blue-collar New Jersey workers.
“With unemployment in the state at historic levels, it is necessary and essential to continue the investment in the economic powerhouse that we know the horse racing industry to be,” Dancer said.
Asked for a comment by Newspaper Media Group about Murphy’s reported decision to cut funding from the horse racing industry, Dennis Drazin, the chairman and CEO of Darby Development LLC, the operators of Monmouth Park, said the reported action “is not a final decision. The budget process is ongoing and we are hopeful the subsidy is restored.”
A message left by Newspaper Media Group seeking comment from officials at Freehold Raceway was not returned.
Newspaper Media Group reached out to a spokesman for the governor to obtain Murphy’s response to the Republicans’ press release regarding the funding reduction, but a statement from the governor was not provided.
Assemblyman Rob Clifton (R-Monmouth) was quoted in the press release saying, “Horse racing is an industry that employs thousands of people directly and indirectly, and these cuts will have far-reaching negative effects in our communities.
“If it were to happen, it would put more New Jerseyans out of work and on the long line waiting to get benefits that may never come from Gov. Murphy’s Labor Department. It is an insult that borders on cruelty,” Clifton said.
According to the press release from the Republicans, as Murphy signed the legislation into law a year ago, he noted the importance of the horse racing industry as “a key economic engine, supporting thousands of jobs and attracting tourists and fans from around the world.”
Managing Editor Mark Rosman contributed to this article.