04/03/2008 11:00PM

Kentucky racing authority facing sharp budget cuts


The Kentucky Horse Racing Authority is facing severe cutbacks beginning in July if a state budget approved by legislators on Wednesday receives final approval from the governor and legislature, officials for the authority said Friday.

The $19 billion state budget, which includes cuts in funding for a variety of state agencies and projects because of declining tax revenue in the state, would put in jeopardy 20 positions at the authority, according to Mark York, a spokesman for the agency. The authority currently employs 23 full-time workers, three part-time workers, and 11 interim or seasonal workers, York said.

Officials for the racing authority are in discussions with the state budget office and Gov. Steve Beshear about the impact of the funding cuts, which would go into effect at the start of the fiscal year on July 1, York said, if approved by Beshear and ratified by the legislature. The legislature is next scheduled to come back into session on April 14.

"Our concern is that without those positions we would not be able to meet our regulatory mandate," York said.

The budget for the racing authority has been in flux for several years because of changes to its funding put in place by the legislature. This year, the budget does not include language requiring all of the state's racetracks to reimburse the authority for certain regulatory functions like collecting and testing drug samples. In 2006, those reimbursements totaled $1.35 million, York said, or about half of the agency's budget.

The previous two-year budget had also eliminated the requirement for reimbursements, but most of that funding was made up by an allocation from the state's general funds.

Last year, the state's auditor, Crit Luallen, issued a report that criticized the authority for failing to perform some of its regulatory functions. Racing authority officials said that the agency's budget did not provide enough funding to perform the functions, which included monitoring pari-mutuel bets in the state.