House votes to slash funding for Amtrak Reform Council

In a show of support for transportation labor's opposition to the Amtrak Reform Council, the U.S. House of Representatives on May 19 passed the Andrews-Ney Amendment, which cuts funding to the ARC by a half.

The amendment was co-sponsored by Reps. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) and Robert Ney (R-Ohio).

Andrews' amendment passed by voice vote in the House of Representatives. The final bill will go before the House-Senate conference before being passed on to the President. Andrews has pledged to make sure the funding cuts remain in the final version of the bill.

The ARC was created by the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997 to provide objective assessments of Amtrak's operations. To date, rail labor has seen very little in the way of "objective" reports coming out of the ARC. To the contrary, several members of the ARC have clearly made known their interest in dismantling Amtrak.

For these reasons, the Rail Labor Division of the TTD supported the Andrews-Ney amendment. Congressmen Andrews has been a strong supporter of rail labor and this bill goes a long way in helping rail unions accomplish their goals.

"The Amtrak Reform Council (ARC) is a prime example of wasteful government spending. Their only mission is to eliminate Amtrak," Andrews said. "Governmental organizations are already in place which can independently evaluate and assess the feasibility of Amtrak. The only action the ARC has taken since its inception is to ask the Federal government for more money."

Last year, the Council originally requested $1.3 million in federal funding but was granted $450,000 in the House bill. The Council was granted $750,000 after the bill left the House-Senate conference. This year, the Council requested an increase to $980,000 but Andrews' amendment knocked the Council back to their 1998 funding level of $450,000. Andrews, an ardent supporter of Amtrak, passed an amendment in 1998 which limited the ARC's ability to use any taxpayer money to hire outside consultants.

"The ARC is out to bury Amtrak along with the collective bargaining agreements of thousands of hard-working men and women of labor," Andrews concluded. "Amtrak is an essential component of our nation's economy and transportation system and I am proud to continue to support it."

In February, rail labor representatives on the ARC issued a blistering dissent to the Council's first annual report (see February 2000 Locomotive Engineer Newsletter). Rail labor questioned the report's biased view, fiscal irresponsibility and misleading statements.

"The law that created the ARC is the Amtrak Reform Act, not the Amtrak Termination Act," stated Rail Labor's report. "Yet, instead of making positive recommendations to improve Amtrak, the ARC and this report demonstrate a definite bias in favor of the elimination of Amtrak."

In terms of fiscal irresponsibility, which Representative Andrews cited as one of the reasons to slash ARC funding, Rail Labor questioned the ARC's visit to London in its dissent to the ARC's annual report.

"What the ARC has learned from these sessions is unclear. Certainly, nothing is included in the Report that references any of the testimony or discussion from these sessions... What is clear about these meetings, however, is that they must have cost the American taxpayers thousands of dollars.

"To argue that Amtrak's fiscal operations 'must (be) conduct(ed)... with efficiency,' while at the same time spending thousands of dollars on these trips, seems to be at the least very hypocritical, especially given the fact that Congress has expressed concern about the level of ARC funding..."

 

2000 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers