In 2019, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law that supports the horse industry with $20 million a year in subsidies for five years. Two years in, he’s proposing to eliminate the funds – not because of problems with the program, but because of the state’s budget problems.

Assemblyman Ron Dancer, R-Ocean, said the planned cut is disappointing because the money, which gets split to increase purses at the state’s three racetracks, is having its intended benefits.

“I’ll give you a good example,” Dancer said. “The number of mares bred in the state of New Jersey, five years ago there were only 74 standardbred mares bred in the state. Last year, we had 740. That’s a ten-fold multiplier.”

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A 2019 law provided $20 million to the New Jersey Racing Commission for horse subsidies that year and each of the four years that follows. But the yearly budget legislation can override any other laws.

Dancer said that helps the economy, increases jobs and protects taxpaying open space. He said he’s confident the Legislature will restore the funds before the budget is approved at the end of this month.

“When you can have jobs for the people, revenues for the government and open space for the environment, that’s a good thing,” Dancer said. “And we need to continue that.”

Dancer said he knows there are competing demands and limited resources but that an industry with 13,000 jobs and 42,000 horses should be a priority. He said that with the state borrowing $4 billion, the horse racing and breeding businesses hoped the appropriation would be spared – and still think it can.

“This is a good investment,” Dancer said. “These are dollars that are going to provide the revenues that we can begin to fund other necessary and essential programs in this state and pay off the debt.”

“We have I think a good quality of life here with the racing industry,” he said, “if we could keep it healthy.”

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