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Shortly after I took office representing the 48th Senatorial District, I had an opportunity learn more about an important industry that impacts many so folks in my district – horse racing.

I attended a rally at the Equistar Farm in Annville, where many local business owners and farmers voiced their opposition to Governor Tom Wolf’s recently announced budget proposal. In it, he calls for diverting more than $200 million dollars from the state’s racehorse development fund to help students with college tuition.

The Pennsylvania Equine Coalition, farmers, and many others have serious concerns that such a move could seriously impact racing and breeding in Pennsylvania. Valued constituents of the 48th district draw their living from racing at Penn National, and more than 23,000 folks statewide make their living off the industry. This includes farmers, feed manufacturers, blacksmiths, veterinarian and breeders – not to mention many related jobs in agriculture and tourism.

Horse racing and breeding are closely tied to our ag industry, which is not only a vital contributor to our Commonwealth’s economy, but also a fundamental piece of our heritage.

Many farm families are struggling just to make ends meet. That’s why it is so important to stand up against short-sighted proposals that prevent current and future generations of farmers from being able to run their businesses successfully.

While I understand the need to address rising college tuition costs and increasing student loan debt, I cannot support a plan that could essentially eliminate an industry that provides $1.6 billion in economic benefits to this state and is vital to our area.

Eighty-nine percent of that money is reinvested locally, creating new jobs and spurring the economy in ways that go far beyond the racing industry and directly back into our local economy – from restaurants and hotels, to mushroom farms and grocery stores.

At the rally, speaker after speaker reiterated one point – the governor’s budget proposal would be disastrous for Pennsylvania agriculture, farms, and small businesses. I heard that message and support their position. As we begin to consider the governor’s budget proposal in the coming months, I will fight to restore funding for the racehorse development trust fund and support an industry that gives so much back to our state and its residents.

State Sen. Dave Arnold represents the 48th senatorial district, which includes Lebanon County.

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