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Of Oil & Amtrak

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  • Andrew Dawson
    http://www.narprail.org/cms/index.php/news_releases/more/nr06_01/ Feb 06, 2006: Administration Proposes $900 million for Amtrak Release #06-01—February 6,
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 8, 2006

      Feb 06, 2006: Administration Proposes $900 million for Amtrak

      Release #06-01�February 6, 2006 (updated)

      Contact NARP

      Washington, D.C.�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. Here�s the math:

      Fiscal 2006 appropriation :
      $ 490.05 million for operations
      $ 772.2 million for capital and debt service
      $ 31.38 million for efficiency incentive grants
      $1293.63 million total

      Fiscal 2007 Administration request :
      $ 500 million for capital
      $400 million for efficiency incentive grants and debt service
      $900 million total

      NARP Executive Director Ross B. Capon said, �It will also be important to
      see what the Administration means when it says �Amtrak will need to better
      manage all its resources, including Federal and state contributions, ticket
      revenue, and other sources. To help ensure this occurs, the Budget proposes
      allowing DOT to target Federal subsidies based on Amtrak�s progress making

      Capon noted, �It 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--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.

      �Ending the interminable debate over intercity passenger rail, and resolving
      to develop a stronger system, would be consistent with President Bush�s
      expressed concern over America�s addiction to oil. A key ingredient in any
      fight to beat that addiction must be development of a more robust rail
      passenger system.

      �Moreover, the budget does not contain any request to fund a federal/state
      partnership to develop new routes and services � a program that the
      Administration, Congress and states all have said they support. It is
      critical that funding for the partnership be in addition to and not in place
      of funding needed to carry out Amtrak�s strategic plan.�

      Mineta said in a statement today, �In last year�s budget, we demanded
      reform, and over the past year, both Amtrak and the Congress have responded.
      In recognition of this progress, and with the expectation that we will see
      much more by the end of the fiscal year, the President requests funds to
      help Amtrak make the transition to a new and better model of intercity
      passenger rail.�

      Amtrak Acting President and CEO David Hughes issued a statement which
      avoided criticizing the Administration request. Hughes said, in part, �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.�

      Capon said, �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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