Merkley calls for end of "Bluegrass Boondoggle"

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Last week, Senator Jeff Merkley took to the Senate floor to draw attention to a tax break that serves as a $126 million giveaway to the horse-racing industry, something he called the "Bluegrass Boondoggle." Watch the video for his remarks.

His comments served to highlight the Republican insistence that the debt ceiling negotiations include only spending cuts; no revenue increases, not even by ending tax breaks and loopholes that distort the free market and are spending-by-another-name. Other Democratic senators highlighted other absurdities in the tax code.

From Politico's MacKenzie Weinger:

Merkley, who peppered his speech with a number of horseracing puns, said the “Bluegrass Boondoggle” would cost U.S. taxpayers $126 million over the next ten years.

“Horse racing may have been called the sport of kings, but that doesn’t mean that the owners of horses – the millionaires and billionaires – need royal tax treatment,” Merkley said on the floor. ...

“Giving Triple Crown treatment to millionaires while workers are put out to pasture – that’s not right, and it’s not the American way,” Merkley said.

Merkley's comments were described by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jamie Dupree as "a direct slap in the face to Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky." McConnell had installed the horse-racing tax break as part of the 2008 farm bill. Nonetheless, McConnell's spokesman deflected questions from the Huffington Post, saying:

"Have you called the Maryland and New York senators? You know the Triple Crown takes place in three states, right?" Stewart said. "McConnell doesn't typically issue remarks every time a freshman senator speaks on the floor."

As you'll see on the video, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) doesn't seem opposed to Merkley's proposal, even giving him an extra three minutes to finish his speech.

Weighing in at Blogcritics, Scott Nance called it "welfare for the wealthy":

I love horses. But you know that there is something wrong with the federal government when horses get better treatment than the average American taxpayer. ...

[E]ven if the horse credit were the only such expenditure on the books, and we could save only $126 million, even then it would be worth killing the awful deduction. Because this: You have to save that $126 million from somewhere, and if not from the horses, then it will come from children cut off from Head Start. Or senior citizens who won't get the food stamps they need anymore; or some other program that serves us average Americans.

There's more from Roll Call and Fox News (which couldn't even find anything bad to say about Merkley's proposal, other than quoting some unrelated stats from the horse-racing industry.)


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