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Pols set up fight with Cuomo over NYRA privatization

ALBANY – State legislators have passed a bill that would return the New York Racing Association to private control – setting up a battle with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The state Senate and Assembly approved a measure that would end state control of the entity, which oversees horse racing at Belmont Park, Aqueduct and Saratoga Race Course. The oft-troubled racing association has been under state control since 2012, run by a board largely controlled by Cuomo appointees.

Cuomo too had proposed ending state control of NYRA, but imposing an oversight board that would allow him five appointees. Further, the Democrat proposed making about $16 million in video slot machine proceeds that NYRA receives subject to annual review as part of the state budget. Aides said it would improve oversight. (NYRA currently receives about $120 million in slots revenue; Cuomo wanted to withhold a portion.)

Sen. John Bonacic (R-Mount Hope) and Assemb. Carrie Woerner (D-Round Lake) led the opposition against Cuomo’s proposal, saying it would give his office too much continuing influence over NYRA. They also didn’t endorse the idea of withholding video slots proceeds.

So the Legislature approved a bill that not only wouldn’t impact NYRA’s revenue but also limits the governor to two appointees on a new oversight board.

“I’m pleased that the NYRA bill has passed both houses. NYRA has made significant improvements to its daily operations, and the passage of this legislation is a positive step in the right direction,” Bonacic said in a statement.

The governor would have to sign or veto the legislators’ bill – if the sides don’t agree on an alternative. Bonacic has floated the idea of a one-year extension of state control if legislators and the governor can’t work out their differences on a privatization bill.

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