Thursday, February 03, 2005

Bush Proposes Amtrak Funding Cuts

Last year the government paid Amtrak 1.2 Billion dollars just to keep their doors open. Bush’s plan wants to reduce that this year to 360 million bucks.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The Bush administration will for the first time propose eliminating operating subsidies for passenger train operator Amtrak as part of a push to cut budget deficits, people close to the budget process said Tuesday.
President Bush's fiscal 2006 budget, which he will send to Congress on Monday, will allocate no subsidy for Amtrak to run its trains. But it will offer $360 million for maintenance on the flagship Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston -- which Amtrak owns -- and for commuter services.
An influential Democrat warned that if enacted, the Bush administration's budget would set the nation's only city-to-city passenger service "on a course to bankruptcy."
Last year, the Bush administration proposed $900 million in subsidies, but Congress increased that to $1.2 billion after the railroad said the administration's proposal would force it to shut down.
A senior administration official added: "Amtrak should be treated like any other form of transportation and funded like any other form of transportation. The other forms don't get operating subsidies."
An official said the Bush administration would continue to support commuter rail services, "if necessary, even in the absence of reform."
The administration has long hoped to wean Amtrak from federal subsidies, criticizing the state of its infrastructure and service. It wants to open its rail lines up to competition.
Amtrak employs 22,000 people and operates 265 trains a day, excluding commuter service, in 46 states.
The administration budget has proposed funding levels over the previous two years that the railroad said were unsustainable. Each year, Congress came through with extra money at the last minute to boost Amtrak's appropriation to levels the railroad said it could live with but still far below what it sought.
Amtrak has never made money in its 34-year history.
Brian Riedl of the conservative Heritage Foundation said the move was long overdue.
"The White House is saving money for the taxpayers and hopefully serving notice to other agencies that they must be efficient and effective in order to continue receiving tax dollars," Riedl said.