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CHARLES TOWN – Jefferson County commissioners have voiced strong opposition to a bill proposed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin that would cut the payments from gambling taxes to county and municipal governments by some 15 percent.
Commissioner Lyn Widmyer called HB4333 “a trifecta of disaster” for Jefferson County, saying that it would do great harm to area jurisdictions, to wastewater treatment systems and to the horse racing industry, who would see large cuts to purses under the bill.
Charles Town Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association President Randy Funkhouser told the House Finance Committee during a public hearing last week that the bill would “destroy” the horse racing and breeding industries in the state.
Commissioner Dale Manuel, who attended the hearing, said the reaction from all groups who spoke to give input on the bill was uniformly negative.
“Not one person spoke in favor of the governor’s bill,” Manuel said. “Everyone that spoke spoke against the governor’s bill. It would be devastating to municipal and county government, and also the horse racing industry.”
Commissioner Patsy Noland read from a letter she had prepared to send to the governor, in which she argued that the state’s confiscation of county revenue to shore up its own budget would break the contract between voters who supported allowing slots and table games in exchange for a portion of the revenue.
“You may recall that the referendum failed the first time it was on the ballot,” she said. “There were many people who worked hard to convince our citizens that passing the referendum would create jobs and give a boost to the overall economy in Jefferson County. The voters supported the referendum the second time it was on the ballot because of the deal the state was willing to give us.”
Commissioner Jane Tabb echoed her sentiments.
“I felt too that it was breaking the contract with the voters of Jefferson County,” she said. “You’re changing the rules to the game.”
The bill has been stalled in the House Finance Committee for two weeks. It has not gained any co-sponsors apart from House Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison, and House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, who by custom sponsor all bills submitted by the governor.