By Vic Ryckaert
Mitt Romney's plan to end funding for Amtrak would kill Beech Grove jobs, Mayor Dennis Buckley and U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., said Wednesday.
"That would be disastrous for our city and its residents," Buckley said, standing just outside Beech Grove's Amtrak facility at Emerson Avenue and Garstang Street.
Buckley, also a Democrat, and Carson were reacting to comments that Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, made in a Fortune magazine article published online Wednesday morning.
"Amtrak is a huge part of this community," Buckley said. "These are high-quality jobs that bolster economic development not only in Beech Grove but in Central Indiana."
Pete Seat, communications director for the Indiana Republican Party, defended Romney and said the country's fiscal problems stem from a "bloated federal government."
"Gov. Romney understands our federal government should operate like Hoosier families do and live within its means," Seat said in an email to The Indianapolis Star, "not saddle future generations with unsustainable debt through more borrowing from China."
Seat declined to specifically address Amtrak funding or jobs in Beech Grove. He blamed President Barack Obama's policies for sending more than 23 million Americans to the unemployment rolls.
Romney's comments came in response to a question from Fortune asking him to list funding cuts that he would make in order to keep his promise to cap government spending at 20 percent of gross domestic product.
"There are three major areas I have focused on for reduction in spending," Romney told Fortune. "First there are programs I would eliminate. Obamacare being one of them but also various subsidy programs -- the Amtrak subsidy, the PBS subsidy, the subsidy for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities."
Amtrak received $1.3 billion in stimulus funds in 2010, according to Buckley's spokeswoman, Jennifer Wagner. Of that, the Beech Grove facility received about $32 million.
Amtrak used stimulus funding to add jobs at two of its three heavy-maintenance facilities nationwide. That money helped increase Amtrak's Beech Grove workforce by 23 percent in the past several years, Buckley said.
"Governor Romney's misguided plan would be detrimental to Beech Grove and the more than 800 people who work at this facility," Carson said. "Romney Republicans don't care about how many families they devastate as long as they're protecting the bottom line."