No Amtrak Fan, Bush Cuts ’07 Budget
February 10, 2006
The release of the President’s budget for 2007 marked the launch of the annual fight for Amtrak’s survival.
This year, just as in years past, President Bush in his $2.77 trillion budget request to Congress on Feb. 7 offered to throw a few bucks Amtrak’s way, but not enough to keep it thriving as much as merely subsisting.
President Bush proposed funding the passenger train service for next year at $900 million, considerably less than the system’s $3.1 billion annual budget calls for.
The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, said that if Congress complies with the president’s request, Bush could succeed in bankrupting Amtrak, dumping costs on the states and pressing reforms that could make it harder for the rail system to survive.
Luckily Amtrak – which as the national railroad touches the district of nearly every member of Congress – has supporters on Capitol Hill who have little stomach for service cuts. New York Sen. Charles Schumer (D) said the proposed subsidy amounted to a “mission to cripple” Amtrak, a 30 percent cut from the figure Congress ultimately approved for Amtrak this year.
Dogged for years by calls to make it a balance sheet-driven, self-sufficient business, the pubic transportation service has made many accommodations to critics, including a marked reduction in the number of employees. Amtrak’s work force is down to 19,500 from its 2002 level of 24,000.
IBEW Railroad Department Director Bill Bohne’ said at least this year, President Bush did not propose to eliminate funding for Amtrak, which he has done in the past.
“It’s good he’s not proposing to zero us out, but it’s not good enough to properly maintain the trains and infrastructure, fairly compensate the dedicated employees, and satisfy the needs of the riding public,” Bohne’ said, adding that ridership is up in recent years, especially on the East and West coasts.
The IBEW has nearly 1,000 members at Amtrak.