Cuomo Rejects NYRA Restructuring Bill

Gov. Andrew Cuomo quietly squashed a NYRA restructuring bill with a "pocket veto."

When New York lawmakers in June approved legislation to return the New York Racing Association to private hands, legislators considered the move an act of defiance and a negotiating weapon against a competing plan by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The lawmakers' bill was quietly vetoed by Cuomo without even the use of a pen Feb. 1.

The governor, as expected, employed the rarely used powers in New York of a "pocket veto"—in which his decision to not OK or affirmatively veto a bill has the effect of killing it. The NYRA bill was the sole measure—out of 615 separate pieces of legislation—passed by lawmakers in 2016 but not acted on during the calendar year by Cuomo.

The governor has since proposed a new NYRA privatization effort. In his $162.2 billion proposed spending plan for 2017, Cuomo tucked in language to bring NYRA out from under state control, where it has been since 2012 in what was originally billed as a three-year state reorganization period. Unlike the current board, a majority of which is appointed by Cuomo, a new NYRA governance structure would have the majority selected from the private sector. However, Cuomo would pick the chairman and his plan calls for new powers—including impounding revenue-sharing funds that flow to NYRA—of a state oversight panel he controls.

The legislation vetoed Wednesday would have created a 15-member NYRA board, with the governor selecting only two of its members. Lawmakers also sought to give seats, with full voting powers, to representatives of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and New York Thoroughbred Breeders. The governor's new plan gives those two groups representation on a new NYRA board, though with non-voting powers.

NYRA's current state takeover period ends later in the fall of 2017. If no deal is reached during this session, another one-year extension of the reorganization period is likely.