The top Republican in the New York legislature, after months of pessimistic offerings, believes a deal on the state’s Thoroughbred franchise could be struck before Thanksgiving if “productive” talks are successful.
In a rare moment of praise for the administration of Gov. Eliot Spitzer, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno said Nov. 5 Senate Republicans and aides to the governor have been holding regular and constructive negotiations on the future of the franchise that has been held since 1955 by the New York Racing Association. Spitzer and Bruno have been engaged in a fierce political battle for months, and have barely spoken.
“We’re trying to get it done,’’ Bruno said of the franchise talks.
The NYRA franchise expires Dec. 31. Spitzer has recommended NYRA get another 30-year franchise in exchange for dropping its land claims for Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga. Bruno has balked at NYRA getting the entire franchise, and has proposed a state authority be created to oversee the racing industry, including selecting a new franchise-holder.
When asked if the Spitzer administration has been holding firm to its NYRA recommendation, Bruno said: “No, no. no. I think that they’re open. They’re realistic. They understand that this is not going to happen the way they presented it. And, I give him credit for the people around him. They’re very open and they’re communicating in a more realistic way.’’
Such words of optimism on the franchise issue are unusual these days in the state capital. Bruno in the past has threatened that NYRA’s control will be taken over Jan. 1, 2008, by a state panel that was created to oversee NYRA’s finances, and NYRA has sent different signals about what could happen if the franchise issue is not resolved.
The GOP leader has in the past floated the idea that several entities, not just NYRA, have a role in running racetracks. He said three-way talks between the Senate, Assembly, and governor’s office stepped up to resolve the stalemate.
“We can get that done if everybody really wants to do a deal because there’s enough interest and enough players, there’s enough success, the market is big enough,’’ he said of a franchise that would involve more than just NYRA.
When asked if his state authority idea is still on the table, Bruno said: “I’m not going to get into a lot of the details because that’s kind of what we’re talking about, as to how you go forward, but my bottom line is that we’re talking and having some productive discussions.’’
Bruno said he has recently asked Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to bring his house back before Thanksgiving to address the franchise and other issues; he has not gotten a response yet, Bruno said.