Montco Lawmaker: Give Horse Racing Money to Schools

Montgomery County State Rep. Todd Stephens wants to take money from a horse racing fund to ease property taxes.

Montgomery County State Rep. Todd Stephens has a novel solution to the school funding problem: Take it from gamblers! Okay, that’s just his plan on a macro level: Stephens wants to take $250 million from the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Fund to give to certain school districts.

Stephens, a Republican who represents the Pennsylvania Route 463-and-a bunch of golf clubs 151st legislative district, wants to create the Local Effort Equalization Fund. The LEEF (eh, not bad) would “provide a supplement to property-taxpayers in school districts receiving less than 35 percent of their total funding from the state.” Stephens release is all about funding schools, but his aim appears to also be to lower property taxes.

Philadelphia would not receive any money for its beleaguered schools under this proposal, as Stephens’ statewide figures put Philadelphia school district revenue from the commonwealth at a 48.8 percent. But lots of districts in the Philly suburbs would get a slice of the $250 million pie—some rich areas, some not as much. 211 districts would get money statewide.

“There’s a reason horse racing is called ‘The Sport of Kings,’” Stephens supposedly actually said, per his release. “Some of those who have won enhanced purses provided by the RHDF include Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Prince Faisal bin Khalid bin Abdulaziz, and countless, out-of-state, millionaire racehorse owners.” So… The Sport of Prime Ministers and Princes, eh?

The state’s horse racing industry is in part propped up by slots revenues, thanks to the 2004 law that instituted the Race Horse Development Fund. A story last year did reveal that some of the $1.5 billion given to horse race owners in the last six years has gone out of state.

When he wasn’t attempting to scare us with Middle Eastern racehorse barons, Stephens was mentioning Middle Eastern racehorse barons to the Beaver County Times.

Here’s guessing Stephens’ plan has an uphill climb. The last time lawmakers tried to divert money from the Race Horse Development Fund, a breeder called it “rape.” For his part, Bensalem State Rep. Tommy Tomlinson was against the move. “Most of the owners that I observe in Philadelphia Park are not sheiks and princes,” he told he Beaver County paper.