Susan Westrom (Democrat)

Tax Issues

The Kentucky legislature has created an environment that has allowed the horse industry to thrive in Kentucky. Currently, the thoroughbred racing industry in the state is unparalleled in nearly every metric when compared to other competing states. Contributing to this successful environment is the legislature’s work to create breeder incentive funds and tax policies that support the industry.

Q1: During the most recent legislative session, the legislature preserved the sales tax exemption on the sale of horses under the age of two to out of state buyers. In a similar situation, would you also support preserving that sales tax exemption?

Yes. It is of great benefit to the entire industry.

Q2: Similarly, the tax exemption on veterinary care for horses was preserved, while it was revoked for some other types of animals. Would you work to preserve that sales tax exemption in the future?

Yes indeed!

Q3: Due to a decision made by the legislature several decades ago, there is currently a confusing and burdensome division in sales tax policy on livestock feed and supplies depending on whether a farmer is purchasing for their equines or for other types of livestock. For equines, sales tax is required. For other livestock, the purchase is exempt from sales tax. KEEP has long-called for tax parity for equines, which would be especially beneficial to smaller businesses. Would you support tax parity and extend the sales tax exemption on feed and supplies to all livestock, including equines?

I have filed this legislation several times but have never been able to get the changes before the Appropriations and Revenue Committee, I now sit on A&R as well as the new Subcommittee on Tax Reform which hopefully will conclude in the next session by streamlining our tax codes as recommended by the previous experts on the Blue Ribbon Task Forces on Tax Reform. Three Governors were gifted with the great tax experts in Kentucky but shelved the recommendations because “leadership” in both chambers could not get their act together. Either they had signed the Grover Norquist “No Tax Pledge” or were afraid of losing their seat if they voted on taxes. Time to put our big boy panties and deal with the issue, especially after our grand display in 2018.

It is a shame the equine industry has had to test their own morals each time they made a purchase for their farm! We give tax incentives to every industry who hints they will move to Kentucky. You have proven your value.

Sports Wagering/Gaming Issues

Another component of Kentucky’s success in the thoroughbred industry has been the role Historic Horse Racing has played in enhancing race purses in Kentucky and attracting the best horses, trainers and jockeys to Kentucky year-round. Historic Horse Racing facilities currently exist at four Kentucky racetracks with one more on the way. With legalized sports wagering or expanded casino gaming there is the potential for the disruption, or growth, of this success.

Q1: Would you support the continued success of Historic Horse Racing, should it become an issue before the legislature?

I have always been in favor of it.

Q2: Do you support expanded casino gaming? Please select one of the following:

  • Support expanded casino gaming at stand-alone facilities.
  • Support expanded casino gaming at licensed racetrack facilities.
  • Oppose expanded casino gaming.
  • Undecided.

Additional comments:

I have filed expansion of gaming bills, and actually had great press coverage. However, those bills did not get out of committee. Obviously, two tracks are prepared for such legislation to pass.

At this time, with all the new members who have little to no institutional knowledge, many who are ministers and our “moral guardians”, plus others who do not understand the importance of the thoroughbred industry because it is not in their backyard, I could not predict how the votes would go on such a piece of legislation. KEEP continues to be relevant and important as a result of these challenges. Your patience has been amazing.

Q3: Legalized sports wagering is now a feasible option in Kentucky, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this year. Sports wagering offers a new revenue stream for the state with great potential for boosting the horse industry. Do you support legalized sports wagering in Kentucky?

I admire what some of our wonderful tracks are prepared to do to stay relevant in today’s fast paced, ever-changing world. This would be a great way to continue our racing tradition with new, young faces.

I will share with you, I have been in meetings with some lobbyists that had never darkened my door in twenty years regarding sports wagering, which made me suspicious. I was heartened at our last Licensing and Occupations Committee meeting where the information provided was important and the message bearers did not make me uncomfortable. I hate shady messengers who think we are too stupid to smell their intent. 

Q4: KEEP recently issued its position paper outlining the four criteria that are critical to legalized sports wagering working in Kentucky and allowing for the horse industry to continue to flourish. Those criteria are: sports wagering should be at racetracks, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission should be the regulatory body overseeing sports wagering, there should be a competitive tax rate to benefit the state while offering a real alternative to the illegal market, and the horse industry should benefit through incentive funds and more. Do you agree with these four criteria?

Yes

If no, which do you not agree with and why?
Jobs/Workforce Development Issues

KEEP has recently undertaken a partnership with the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Foundation to include the horse industry in a national pilot of the Talent Pipeline Initiative. The program is in its beginning stages, but KEEP sees great potential in what the two-year pilot may uncover about how to fill the needs of the horse industry’s demand for labor.

Q1: As Frankfort considers the importance of job training and workforce development programs, will you commit to including the horse industry in those conversations?

That is a wonderful idea. Since we no longer have the Horse farm Subcommittee (which I created in 2002) I do not believe there has been an update on labor needs in Ky for our equine industry. I know we relied heavily on immigrant labor who were often magical with horses but have not heard any updates in our Ag Committee.

Please feel free to add additional information you would like to share that would be relevant to KEEP’s membership.

So many of you are new and likely are not aware that the status of the horse industry was pretty covered up in Frankfort or ignored for years. When I was elected in 1998, my first goal was to bring to light the importance of this industry to Kentucky. In fact, I had questions on my first constituent survey that demonstrated even people in the Lexington Bluegrass were clueless about our industry. I was alarmed. As a result, John Gaines requested I meet with others in the industry to discuss the public perception in Lexington; thus the roots began for KEEP. If Lexington did not GET IT, the rest of the state didn’t either. Horses Work For Kentucky is still the best logo I have ever seen!

I was the Legislative Liaison for the World Equestrian Games in 2010 and was horrified by lack of support by the General Assembly although our great friend Pearse Lyons offered tickets for all the GA members. Many of our members were too intimidated. I am grateful KEEP has seen how important it is to have all breeds recognized as vital to the economy across Kentucky.