CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Senate Finance Committee killed the bill Thursday that would have eliminated the Racetrack Modernization Fund and use the money to help plug the hole in the state budget.
The bill (HB 3105), which passed the House of Delegates, would empty the fund, which annually has approximately $9 million in it, and put the money into the state’s general revenue fund. Members of the Senate Finance Committee killed the bill on a voice vote.
Senator Doug Facemire (D-Braxton) said the state needs to keep its word to the gambling industry.
“I’m a firm believer that a deal is a deal especially in business,” Facemire said. “When we set this up and got started in full with this we made a deal with these casinos and it was all good as long as the money was good.”
The modernization fund was created by the legislature a few years ago. The money comes from an administrative fee the casinos pay the lottery commission. They receive matching monies from the fund for modernization projects at their facilities. Most of the money spent in recent years has been for new machines in order to compete with newer out-of-state casinos.
Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns (R-Ohio) also spoke against eliminating the fund Thursday.
“I think it’s important for them to be able to produce revenue for our state, to be able to compete with our surrounding states,” Ferns said.
Senator Corey Palumbo (D-Kanawha) asked Finance Committee Chairman Mike Hall (R-Putnam) where the legislature could find the $9 million from the fund that’s already included in the budgets that passed the Senate and the House Wednesday.
“We have in our possession Senate Bill 484 (the Senate’s original tax reform bill that was changed and passed by the House Thursday) that’s a potential revenue measure. It could be replaced by Rainy Day money or could result in an additional (budget) cut,” Hall said.
The modernization fund currently has a balance of approximately $4.5 million.