LLPH urges all House members to vote NO on H.R. 749, the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015 which reauthorizes Amtrak. Offered by Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), Pete DeFazio (D-OR), Jeff Denham (R-CA), and Michael Capuano (D-MA), this bill does little to reform Amtrak.
Amtrak (The National Railroad Passenger Corporation) is a publicly funded railroad system. Amtrak does decent transportation work, but the federal government has no constitutional role in this area. With an $18+ Trillion, the federal government should stop subsidizing Amtrak and privatize it. Allow the free market to work.
Our friends at the Heritage Action explains several problems with the bill:
The bill’s sponsors misleadingly claim the bill “reduces Amtrak’s authorized funding levels by 40 percent.” This is a reduction in previous authorization levels, but does not represent an actual reduction in spending, as authorizations for Amtrak have consistently exceeded appropriations. For instance, Amtrak received $1.4 billion in FY 2015. According to the Congressional Budget Office, H.R. provides $1.4 billion for Amtrak in FY 2016.
Amazingly, the bill also increases the authorized subsidy for money-losing long distance routes rather than placing these routes on a path to fiscal sustainability. The Heritage Foundation called for the elimination of federal operating subsidies in its recently released “Budget Book: 106 Ways to Reduce the Size & Scope of Government.” These subsidies also stand in stark contrast to theHouse-passed FY 2015 budget:
“The budget supports eliminating operating subsidies that have been insulating Amtrak from making the structural reforms necessary to start producing returns. The 1997 Amtrak authorization law required Amtrak to operate free of subsidies by 2002.”
Another selling point made by the bill’s sponsors is a provision that supposedly “eliminates Amtrak’s losses in food and beverage service.” Despite the fact that Congress has technically prohibited Amtrak from running losses on its food and beverage service since 1981, Amtrak lost $87 million per year providing food and beverage services from 2006 to 2012. The consequences for noncompliance under this new policy would not occur until after the bill’s funding authority expires. There is little incentive for Amtrak to make the necessary reforms to ensure that its food and beverage service does not continue to be a taxpayer liability.
Amtrak has failed to respond to congressional mandates for decades, and there is little reason for that to change under H.R. 749. If lawmakers want to provide quality, reliable service without burdening taxpayers they should seek to privatize Amtrak, ending federal subsidies altogether.
The Club for Growth states:
In the official 2012 GOP platform, it states, “Amtrak continues to be, for the taxpayers, an extremely expensive railroad.” Indeed, most Republicans claim they want to end or greatly reform Amtrak. But this bill doesn’t do that, even though it was drafted and supported by House GOP leaders. Spending authorization levels go up, not down, between fiscal years 2016 and 2019. Worse, the bill allows taxpayer-backed debt to be more easily accessed – up to a whopping $35 billion.
Thankfully, conservative members are stepping up to the plate to massively improve the bill. Rep. Tom McClintock, one of the stalwart defenders of liberty and a close friend of LLPH has offered a simple but strong freedom amendment. It reads:
Page 2, line 3, through page 3, line 10, strike section 101.
This amendment would eliminate all Federal assistance for Amtrak. We are in strong support of the amendment.
LLPH urges a YES vote on the McClintock Amendment to H.R. 749 and a NO vote on H.R. 749 if the amendment is not adopted.