CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET FOR THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT FOR THE FISCAL YEAR 2006 -- (Senate - March 15, 2005)
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Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I have sought recognition to speak on the funding for Amtrak. I have joined Senator Byrd on the Byrd-Specter amendment to provide $1.4 billion for Amtrak which is, in my judgment, absolutely essential for the welfare of the United States of America.
The hallmark of an industrial society is having urban transportation. The Amtrak issue has been before the Congress virtually every year since I was elected in 1980. I recall one of the early meetings in the office of Senator Howard Baker, who was then the majority leader, where Amtrak had been zeroed out. In those days, it was funded between $600 million and $700 million. We were discussing the issue with David Stockman, who was the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. His argument was Amtrak will go to bankruptcy and the line between Boston and Washington would be saved.
It seemed to me there would be enormous problems. You would not be able to land at National Airport, now Reagan Airport, and get through the Baltimore tunnel. We were able to save Amtrak. We have saved Amtrak in every year.
There is an enormous amount of work which needs to be done on Amtrak's infrastructure, fleet, and equipment. Amtrak is setting record ridership, and as the congestion of our airports and highways continues to increase, it would be a grave mistake to cut back.
On February 10 of this year, 35 Senators, including 8 Republicans, wrote to Chairman Gregg and Ranking Member Conrad expressing our deep concern regarding the President's proposed elimination of Amtrak funding in the 2006 budget proposal and setting forth in detail the reasons Amtrak should be funded.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the letter to Chairman Gregg and Ranking Member Conrad be printed in the RECORD.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
Washington, DC, February 10, 2005.
Hon. JUDD GREGG,
Chairman, Senate Budget Committee, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC
Hon. KENT CONRAD,
Ranking Member, Senate Budget Committee, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC
DEAR CHAIRMAN GREGG AND SENATOR CONRAD: We are writing to express our deep concern regarding the President's proposed elimination of funding Amtrak in his 2006 Budget proposal. At a time when Amtrak is setting ridership records and as congestion at our airports and on the highways continues to increase, we believe it would be a grave mistake to cut the essential federal funds that keep Amtrak operating. Without such funds or other intervening action, Amtrak would quickly enter bankruptcy and shutdown of all Amtrak services, leaving millions of riders and thousands of communities without access to the essential and convenient transportation that Amtrak provides.
Therefore, we ask that you provide sufficient funding in the Fiscal Year 2006 Budget Resolution to sustain Amtrak's national network of passenger rail service. Amtrak's 5-year Strategic Plan, which was approved by Amtrak's Board of Directors on June 10, 2004, specifies that approximately $1.8 billion will be required for fiscal year 2006 to provide safe and efficient operation of the railroad. In addition, the most recent reauthorization proposal from the Administration would require a funding level of at least $1.5 billion for fiscal year 2006, according to the Department of Transportation Inspector General.
Where Amtrak service is available, Americans ride the train and are doing so in record numbers. Despite a sluggish domestic travel industry. Amtrak carried more than 25 million passengers nationwide. If Amtrak had the same opportunity to receive Federal infrastructure investments as highway and aviation interests, with a federal match comparable to funds available to those modes of transportation, many more communities would avail themselves of passenger rail service.
Amtrak has made real progress reforming itself over the last few years by reducing its operating costs to help fund needed capital improvements. Over the last 30 months, Amtrak CEO and President David Gunn has cut operating costs, reduced the employee headcount from slightly less than 25,000 to just under 20,000 employees, has increased the number of trains it operates by 20%, and implemented internal reforms designed to control costs and improve efficiencies. Amtrak's core operating expenses are now less than they were in 2000.
There is an enormous amount of work needed on the infrastructure, fleet and equipment Amtrak owns and operates. Amtrak cannot continue to defer this important work without jeopardizing safety and reliability of its operations or putting at risk service that is relied on by hundreds of thousands of commuter and intercity passengers each day.
Please consider our request for adequate funding for Amtrak in preparing the FY 2006 Budget Resolution.
Kay Bailey Hutchison,
Jon S. Corzine,
Byron L. Dorgan,
Frank R. Lautenberg,
Barbara H. Mikulski,
Hillary Rodham Clinton,
John F. Kerry,
Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I urge my colleagues to support adequate funding for Amtrak. I thank the Chair and yield the floor.
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