Kentucky Budget Includes $15M for Horse Industry

More than $15 million for horse industry-related projects and financial relief is included in the 2006-07 budget approved April 11 by the Kentucky General Assembly. The spending plan now goes to Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher for consideration.

The big-ticket item is the second phase of construction at the Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center, for which $13.5 million was allocated, according to a release from the office of Republican Sen. Damon Thayer. The Lexington facility, which was overwhelmed when mare reproductive loss syndrome struck Central Kentucky in 2001, is in the process of being expanded.

The release said Republican Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr played a role in getting the LDDC funding added to the budget. For the past several years, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association has lobbied legislators for LDDC funding.

The first phase of the expansion, made possible through an $8.5-million appropriation from the Kentucky General Assembly in 2005, includes construction of a necropsy laboratory adjacent to the existing facility, LDDC officials said last year. They also said they planned to seek more funds during the 2006 legislative session to help pay for an expansion of a molecular diagnosis lab.

The upgraded facility will feature six large-animal necropsy bays and five small-animal bays. During the MRLS outbreak, the LDDC handled about 760 fetuses, even though it's the smallest of about 40 necropsy labs in the United States.

The budget also includes $1.2 million in operating funds for the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, which will no longer charge daily assessments to racetracks. Under the current structure, Thoroughbred tracks pay $3,500 per live racing day, and Standardbred and Quarter Horse tracks $1,750.

For instance, Turfway Park, which just concluded a 69-day meet, would have retained $241,000 under the new scheme. The Red Mile, a Lexington harness track, would retain more than $70,000 during a typical meet.

The budget also includes $600,000--$300,000 per year--for the University of Louisville Equine Program, and $300,000 in development funds for the North American Riding Academy at the Kentucky Horse Park. The funds will go to the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, which is helping the academy develop a curriculum.