Jersey Governor Proposes to Cut Authority's Subsidy

New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey presented his 2003 budget in a March 26 speech before state legislators, and among his cost-cutting proposals is a reduction in the operating subsidy for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which oversees Monmouth Park and Meadowlands, by more than half.

The state is facing a $3-billion budget shortfall.

"This is the first step toward getting our state government out of the sports business," McGreevey said in his speech. "When the sports authority was created, it was created for the right reasons--to help bring professional sports to New Jersey at a time when the private sector would not help. But today, the sports authority and the Meadowlands cost us money. The system is not working for the teams, and it's certainly not working for the taxpayers.

"In the coming months, we will put forward a long-term plan that keeps all our teams in New Jersey, eliminates the burden on the taxpayer, and finds the best possible use for the Meadowlands site. I am promising you today that the Meadowlands will be developed sensibly and rationally...that it will become an economic engine for the region, and that the polluted sites in the area will be cleaned up."

On March 22, McGreevey appointed George Zoffinger, a specialist in business restructuring, as president of the NJSEA. Zoffinger immediately promised to present a plan to realize greater administrative efficiency and enhance revenues at the Meadowlands and other sports authority facilities.

"Of course, bringing in more customers and helping them have fun is only a part of the challenge," Zoffinger said. "The financial structure and the infrastructure are deeper, more complex problems. While the sports authority is a quasi-public entity, it is a business and we need to run it as if our livelihood were dependent on turning a profit; otherwise everyone in the state loses."

How horse racing would be impacted under the plan remains to be seen. Though the New Jersey Racing Commission awarded 2002 Thoroughbred dates, the schedule remains up in the air. Horsemen and the NJSEA have not been able to agree on the number of racing dates at Monmouth and Meadowlands.

Horsemen and racetrack officials chose not to comment on McGreevey's speech.

Senate president Richard Codey told the Associated Press the NJSEA has been hindered because it also operates convention centers and the New Jersey State Aquarium in South Jersey. Codey said McGreevey should also study the possible sale of the two racetracks it operates, the AP reported.