By Bill Finley, Thoroughbred Daily News
A bill that would have extended annual purse subsidy payments made to New Jersey's Thoroughbred and Standardbred tracks was vetoed Wednesday by Gov. Phil Murphy. The bill called for the $20 million subsidy, which is split between the two breeds, to continue through 2029.
The money has already been approved for 2024. The extension was to run from 2025 through 2029.
Murphy vetoed 12 bills in all, using what is called a pocket veto. That type of veto applies only to bills sent to the governor's desk in the final 10 days of a legislative session. If the governor does not sign such bills within seven days of the end of a session those bills are vetoed without being sent back to the Legislature.
Murphy's decision came as a major surprise since he has largely supported racing during his time in office and the bill had overwhelming support in the Senate and in the Assembly. It passed the Senate by a 35-1 margin and the Assembly by a 73-0 margin.
The purse subsidy is vital to Monmouth Park, which, without it, would offer far smaller purses and have trouble competing for horse with the many other tracks in the Mid-Atlantic region.
“If we didn't get this money, it would be a disaster,” said Dennis Drazin, the chairman and CEO of Darby Development, the management team that operates Monmouth. “We'd either have to cut days or purses.”
Drazin admits he was alarmed when first hearing news of the veto and he immediately placed a call to Murphy. Drazin said he heard back within 15 minutes and the governor reassured him that future purse subsidies remain very much alive.
“I spoke with him and he wholeheartedly supports the industry, but he did not feel a bill like this should get passed through a lame-duck session,” Drazin said. “He is committed to continuing to work on and it get it done through the budget process. I take him at his word. He has been supportive of the industry ever since he's been in office and he says he will get it done, just not the way it was being handled. I trust this governor. He made a commitment and I am taking him at his word. If he had said, 'I'm vetoing it that's it, we'd be having a different conversation.”