Reduced Purse Supplement Now in Jeopardy in Jersey

Just two days after he took office, New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey has announced he intends to freeze all discretionary spending by the state, which includes a $6-million appropriation for Thoroughbred and Standardbred purses.

The $6-million purse supplement had been approved in a last-minute rush of legislative activity by outgoing acting Gov. Don DiFrancesco and his successors earlier in January.

McGreevey said that more than $42 million in approved additional spending by the former administration may be withheld, but he declined to be specific.

In addition to the horse racing purse supplement, other funds being scrutinized include $500,000 for a "for-profit" school for troubled youth whose operators donated to Republican candidates, and $3.5 million for improvements to the Battleship New Jersey museum.

New Jersey is facing a $2.4 billion deficit this year.

"The horsemen realize that the state is in fiscal crisis," said Francis "Bud" Keegan, president of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. "But last year's banner season for New Jersey racing proves this industry is a good investment and worth saving."

Without the $6-million supplement, purses at both Monmouth and Meadowlands are likely to decline. In 2001, both tracks offered record pots of more than $300,000 a day, primarily due to an $11.7-million supplement passed by the legislature.

The purse supplement is designed to get horsemen through the 2002 racing season until revenues from off-track and telephone wagering kick in. That's not expected to happen until 2003 at the earliest.