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Amtrak aid would be reduced 30 percent
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   Amtrak aid would be reduced 30 percent
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Amtrak aid would be reduced 30 percent
« on: Feb 7th, 2006, 10:39am »
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WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration unveiled a $900 million Amtrak budget yesterday (Feb. 6) that calls for cutting funding for the rail line by about 30 percent and raises the prospect of service reductions on some money-losing long-distance lines, according to this report by Chris Mondics published by the Philadelphia Inquirer.  
Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said at a budget briefing that funding for Amtrak in the proposed budget also would be tied in part to progress by the rail line in cutting costs for food service and overnight accommodations on some of its trains.  
A study by the Government Accountability Office said in November that Amtrak's food service went into the red by $160 million in 2003 and 2004.  
Mineta said about $400 million of the budgeted amount for Amtrak would be dependent on "continued momentum in turning this troubled railroad around."  
Later, Jeffrey Rosen, the Transportation Department's general counsel, explained that the rail line might lose some or all of that money if it failed to meet efficiency targets.  
Congress has resisted proposed cuts to Amtrak's budget in the past, and it appeared likely that the administration proposal for the budget year that begins Oct. 1 will trigger an intense fight on Capitol Hill.  
"For someone who claims to be concerned about our country's future energy needs, President Bush's proposal to slash funding for Amtrak by $400 million just doesn't make sense," said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.).  
Rosen said the proposed cuts could result in service reductions on some long-distance lines. He said decisions on specific cuts would be up to Amtrak.  
(The preceding report by Chris Mondics was published by the Philadelphia Inquirer on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2006.)  
February 7, 2006  


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Re: Amtrak aid would be reduced 30 percent
« Reply #1 on: Feb 7th, 2006, 4:10pm »
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Amtrak’s share of proposed federal budget less then last year
TRAINS:  WASHINGTON – Tucked away in President Bush’s $2.77 trillion proposed budget for fiscal year 2007 is $900 million for Amtrak. Of that, $500 million is for capital needs and maintenance in and around the Northeast Corridor between Washington, D.C. and Boston. The remaining $400 million is for the rest of the national passenger carrier. Amtrak supporters said the amount is not enough to keep the carrier going.
In the 2006 budget, Bush offered no subsidy for the railroad, but Congress granted Amtrak $1.3 billion.
"The Administration's proposal serves in part as recognition of the strategic reforms currently underway at Amtrak to reduce costs and make us more efficient,” said Amtrak acting President and CEO David Hughes. “It is imperative that we continue to pursue these measures with urgency and energy. While the growth in our operating deficit has been halted and ridership continues strongly, we must seize the opportunity presented by the growing demand for passenger rail service around the country and make improvements to our customer service.
“This is the first step in a nine-month process. Last year, Congress voted and the President signed an appropriation for Amtrak of $1.3 billion for FY06. This year, we again look forward to working with Congress and the Administration as we make the case for federal support."
Edward Wytkind, president of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department, was less diplomatic about the proposed budget.
"Once again the Bush administration is attempting to bankrupt Amtrak, dump costs onto the states and insist on 'reforms' that would actually make it harder for passenger rail to survive. Even though last year's effort by the Administration to eliminate all funding for Amtrak was soundly rejected by Congress, the administration has not wavered from its ultimate goal of closing down the railroad.
"The reality is that the radical conditions attached to this budget make this year's plan just another retread of what Congress and the American people reject year after year – pulling the plug on Amtrak.
"This year's idea of 'reform' would slash services across the country; steal a page from the airlines' failed business model of outsourcing critical safety functions; take us down the same road of privatization traveled by Great Britain that resulted in severely eroded service, safety problems, outraged passengers and a multi-billion dollar government bailout; and, attempt to scapegoat workers for the failures of the federal government and the current Amtrak board to manage our national passenger railroad responsibly.”
Ross Capon, executive director of the pro-railroad lobbying group National Association of Railroad Passengers, said, “The Administration's proposal of $900 million for Amtrak in Fiscal 2007 brings President Bush back to the levels he proposed two years ago and three years ago, except of course that inflation has eroded the value of $900 million. Hopefully, the Administration recognized that Congress soundly rejected last year's proposed zero, substituting $1.3 billion in its place, and the Administration is now expressing some flexibility to negotiate a more realistic budget.
“In any event, Amtrak cannot survive at $900 million. The Administration says it is designating $500 million for ‘capital needs and maintenance.’ The budget request shows zero for operating grants, evidently because the remaining $400 million will instead be called, in the words of DOT Secretary Norman Mineta, ‘Efficiency Incentive Grants to encourage reform...’
“But to actually support a $500 million federal grant for capital, Amtrak needs $1.3 billion in all. The Administration in effect is saying, ‘We're going to cut Amtrak's total funding by $400 million while cutting zero from capital.’ That is unrealistic.”
Capon noted that is generally recognized that Amtrak has been working to “better manage all its resources, at least since the middle of 2002 when David Gunn arrived. Amtrak is under a mandate to achieve a certification from the DOT Inspector General by July 1, 2006, that Amtrak has achieved 'operational savings.’
"Amtrak is working on a number of fronts to assure that it will get that certification,” Capon continued, “most conspicuously, reducing personnel requirements on many dining cars. If the Administration is determined to expand the amount of outside micromanaging Amtrak must contend with, that is more of a Trojan horse than an olive branch.
"We urge the Administration to begin constructive negotiations with the Congress that will ultimately lead to a FY07 appropriation that will provide Amtrak with the resources it needs to maintain and improve its current services and that also provides new resources to fund the federal state partnership program for intercity rail development."


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Re: Amtrak aid would be reduced 30 percent
« Reply #2 on: Feb 8th, 2006, 10:39am »
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I find it hard to believe that Amtrak "lost" $160 million on food service in a year. Sounds like some of the very creativea ccounting the railroads used when they were trying to train-off a passenger train back when the ICC was in charge, to me.
As far as the idea of providing $500 million for capital improvements and maintenace on teh NEC and $400 million for all system in operating subsidy, words fail me, but I'll be writing both my senators and my US rep about the matter. I shall TRY to be polite and avoid use of language about the Administration that could get a visit from the Secret Service  - but I suspect it will be sufficiently "contemptuous" toward the President that it will be a good thing I'm no longer on active duty as a commissioned officer in the US Army (UCMJ makes it a penal offense to "speak contemptuously" about teh Rpesident, Vice PResident, Congress or a few other people and institutions)...

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