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"Yes" on McClintock Amendment to Passenger Rail Reform Bill

by Nan Swift / /

NTU urges all Representatives to vote “YES” on Representative McClintock’s (R-CA) amendment to H.R. 749, the “Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015.” This amendment would eliminate proposed subsidies for Amtrak’s national network and the Northeast Corridor Improvement Fund authorized by H.R. 749.

The McClintock amendment would restrict subsidies for Amtrak, which the underlying legislation would increase annually. This would be an important step toward cutting the federal apron strings for this troubled entity and putting it on a path towards fiscal sustainability (and ultimately commercialization). Limited funds would help to expedite a much-needed debate over how Amtrak can make serious reforms and prioritize profitable lines.

Supporting the McClintock amendment to H.R. 749 is, at the present time, the most significant way that lawmakers can initiate a process of improving a disappointing bill, especially with so few amendments made in order. H.R. 749 authorizes spending at $300 million over the most recent appropriations levels. Significantly, the legislation does little to solve the problem of food and beverage service losses – an area that common sense dictates should be the easiest to fix. H.R. 749 does stipulate that the operating loss must be eliminated within five years of enactment, but the reforms listed do not address the real cost drivers of the food and beverage service: labor. According to the Amtrak Office of Inspector General, labor costs exceed revenues and could be addressed through outsourcing. By forbidding personnel reductions, the legislation ties the hands of Amtrak and makes it unlikely the five-year goal for profitability in this area will ever be achieved.
 
Finally, H.R. 749 does little to incentivize the real change necessary at Amtrak, still $1 billion in debt, to ensure taxpayer dollars are not further wasted on this enterprise.
 
Roll call votes on the McClintock amendment to H.R. 749 will be included in our annual Rating of Congress and a “Yes” vote will be considered the pro-taxpayer position.