The Washington County Chamber of Commerce supports the position that Governor Wolf should not fund his proposed Nellie Bly Scholarship by raiding the Race Horse Development Trust Fund (RHDTF). This viewpoint was also relayed by Kim Hankins, Executive Director of The Meadows Standardbred Owners Association in a February 27, 2021 Op-Ed in the Observer-Reporter.
In Washington County, tourism and agriculture are significant economic drivers-each employing thousands of people and contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to our local economy. The purse funds provided by the RHDTF supports both these industries by driving visitors to the county’s largest tourism attraction-The Meadows Racetrack & Casino-for quality racing and providing sustainable revenue for countless farms, feed suppliers, trainers, drivers, and other small businesses that support the racehorse industry in our county.
The governor’s proposal to claim nearly $200 million from the RHDTF and divert it to scholarships is shortsighted as it destabilizes our tourism and agricultural economies without really addressing the issues of rising educational costs and student debt. In the current economic climate created by the pandemic, we can ill afford to gamble with two industries so important to countless livelihoods and businesses in Washington County.
Jeff Kotula is president of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Promotion Agency