The federal budget for the Fiscal Year 2019 has been prepared and is ready to go to Congress for final approval. Washington insiders seem to agree that, barring something crazy happening, this budget should become the law of the land without any problems.
And here’s what’s so sweet about it: first, it contains everything that Rail Passengers Association has been lobbying for over the past six months or so. And, second, it pretty much repudiates many of the cost-cutting efforts of Amtrak president David Anderson and his team of “experts”.
For example, Amtrak is being told in no uncertain terms that Congress considers the long-distance network an essential service to the vast rural areas of the country.
Next, the congressional budget document in effect trashes the half-assed, unworkable “fix” that Amtrak proposed for the Southwest Chief. (You remember . . . the middle-of-the-night, 500-mile “bus bridge” between Albuquerque and Dodge City.)
Third, Congress is essentially telling Amtrak to bring back discounted passenger fares for U.S. military veterans.
And fourth, Congress has instructed Amtrak to bring back all of the station agents who were laid off during the fiscal year 2018.
So BRAVO! to the terrific RPA Washington staff and to the small group of members who have lobbied for these specific budget items on their own initiative, both with personal visits to key congressional offices and by telephone and email.
This just goes to show you: Good, sound, realistic ideas, presented with a coordinated, professional and persistent effort, can penetrate most of the instinctive resistance normally encountered in the Halls of Congress.
Finally, albeit belatedly, I’m delighted to report that Rep. Stephanie Murphy from Winter Park, Florida, was re-elected to Congress this past November. This is the bright young woman who defeated long time Amtrak nemesis, John Mica, two years ago. She beat him again last year, this time with a very convincing 57 percent of the vote.