H.R. 1024 would repeal carrier diesel fuel tax

Congressman Kenny Hulshof (R-MO) introduced H.R. 1024, the Transportation Tax Equity and Fairness Act, which would repeal the 4.3-cent diesel fuel tax on railroad and inland waterway transportation.

H.R. 1024 currently has 40 cosponsors. The Senate bill, S. 661, has 12 cosponsors. If the diesel fuel tax is repealed, railroad industry profits would increase by $170 million annually.

However, momentum for this legislation has been slowed somewhat as a result of a letter sent to all Senators by the Rail Labor Division of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, opposing the repeal.

Senate bond bill could generate $12 billion for Amtrak over 10 years

Legislation to allow Amtrak to raise $12 billion over the next 10 years by issuing high-speed rail bonds was introduced in the Senate.

The bill, S. 250, provides Amtrak federal assistance by providing tax credits to bondholders instead of Amtrak paying interest. Local governments would be required to provide a 20-percent match for rail service improvements in their states. Currently, S. 250 has 57 cosponsors.

Railroad passenger bill gets House approval

Legislation that would require National Transportation Safety Board staff to provide assistance to families of rail passengers killed in train crashes passed the House by a vote of 404 to 4. The bill (H.R. 544) is similar to a law enacted to help relatives of plane crash victims. The measure also specifies response procedures for Amtrak, including providing a toll-free number to handle calls, notifying relatives, and providing a list of passengers as quickly as possible to the NTSB family liaison.

Report shows economic impact of railroads

The Association of American Railroads has released its 1999 data showing the economic impact of the railroad industry for all states except Alaska, Hawaii and Rhode Island.

The data includes the total monetary contribution made by freight railroads to state economies through wages and retirement benefits to railroad workers, and freight tonnage originated and terminated in each state by commodity. In addition, each state is ranked by the number of freight railroads operating in the state, by the number of rail miles operated in the state and by rail traffic.

The information is available under the "Resource Library" section of the AAR's website, www.aar.org.

Railroad Retirement Board trust funds get stronger, report says

The RRB released its 2000 Annual Report which covers the fiscal year ended September 30, 1999. Benefits of $8.3 billion were paid during the year, essentially the same as the previous year. Payments were made to 748,000 beneficiaries during the year, down from 772,000 the year before. Equity in the Trust Funds at year-end was $17.96 billion, a new high and an increase of $1.48 billion from the previous year.

Grants available for rail station renovations

The Great American Station Foundation is accepting applications for its 2001 cycle of grants for train station revitalization projects. The Las Vegas-based group provides grants to help jump-start community efforts to restore rail stations as active Intermodal transportation facilities and ensure that they contribute to community economic development. Full details on the grant program are available on the Foundation's web site at: www.stationfoundation.org.

Bush transportation budget shorts Amtrak

President Bush's FY 2002 transportation budget proposal provides Amtrak with an authorization of $521 million, $400 million below its authorization level. In addition, it proposes to reinstate railroad safety user fees. Congress had eliminated these fees in the past. However, the Administration's budget proposal contains revenue of $75 million in so-called "transportation user fees," including fees to support FRA's railroad safety inspection program, and fees to offset costs associated with regulating transportation of hazardous materials.

That's a Lott of...

Apparently, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) thinks men and women who safely pilot plane-loads of passengers through clear, turbulent or stormy skies are vastly overpaid.

At a February 13 hearing on airline industry problems, Lott said, "I think labor is a large part of the problem... What do they make? Look at those salaries."

While some captains do earn better than $100,000 a year (after years of experience), according to the Air Line Pilots website, www.alpa.org, starting salaries run between $25,000 and $28,000 a year. Required training and licenses for pilots (after the cost of four years of college) amount to about $30,000.

Lott earns a $141,300-a-year Senate salary. Who provides the most value?

BLE PAC contributors will receive lapel pins soon

BLE Vice-President & U.S. National Legislative Representative Leroy Jones reports that lapel pins for BLE PAC contributors are now in the mail and will be arriving soon.

The pins are given to members who contribute to the BLE's PAC fund at a minimum of $60 per year.

Members who do not receive their pins by August 1 should contact the BLE's National Legislative Office by phone at (202) 347 7936 or via the Internet at: <bledc@aol.com>. The BLE thanks all PAC contributors!



2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers