CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A trip north is on the agenda for Governor Jim Justice as the last day of the 2017 Regular Legislative Session plays out at the State Capitol.
On Saturday morning, Justice will be in Wheeling for what’s being called “a major announcement” about greyhound racing in West Virginia.
That announcement is scheduled for 11 a.m. at Independence Hall.
Among the completed bills Justice has not yet taken action on is SB 437, the legislation written to eliminate $15 million in annual state funding for the West Virginia Greyhound Breeding Development Fund.
Steve Sarras, president of the West Virginia Kennel Owners Association, is hoping to see a veto of that bill from Governor Justice.
“It seems like he’s a very rational man who has a good plan that, I think, will help West Virginia keep jobs, build jobs and help bring it back into prosperity,” said Sarras on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline” which originated from the State Capitol.
Greyhound racing is good for West Virginia, according to Sarras.
“It provides a positive impact,” he argued. “They (bill supporters) continue to say that it’s a dying industry. If you go back and look through ten years, it’s been very steady, very stable.”
Two casino sites in West Virginia currently have greyhound racing: Wheeling Island Hotel Casino Racetrack in Ohio County and Mardi Gras Casino and Resort in Kanawha County.
Supporters of SB 437 have said the Mountain State could spend the greyhound money in better ways.
The greyhound defunding bill passed the House of Delegates, 56 to 44, on Apr. 1. The Senate vote, 19-15, came on March 27.
If there is a veto of the greyhound funding bill and the Legislature is still in session, the veto could potentially be overridden with a simple majority vote. Budget bills or supplemental appropriations require two-thirds to override.
The $15 million from greyhound racing is one of the steps lawmakers are taking toward attempting to fill a projected $500 million revenue shortfall in the 2018 Fiscal Year which begins on July 1.
That’s prompted this question from Sarras about West Virginia’s horse racing industry: “If it’s strictly a budgetary item like they’re promoting it as, why wouldn’t you take the same exact, equal fund from the horses who pay less in taxes?”
Sarras was planning to be in Wheeling Saturday for Justice’s announcement and said he hoped others from the greyhound industry would attend as well.
“I’m there 100 percent supporting Governor Justice and his plan. The man has tremendous ideas and vision, so I’m giving him all my support,” he said.