Amtrak Survives 1st Budget Draft.
As mentioned here, and has been reported in the national media, the Trump budget as submitted to Congress was pretty much drafted by the very conservative libertarian “think tank”, the Heritage Foundation. These are the people who are against virtually every function of the federal government. Especially regulation. And taxes. And pretty much anything that costs money.
Passenger trains, particularly the long-distance trains, have been in the libertarian gunsights for years and, as I guess we all know, the Trump budget included zero federal dollars to support Amtrak’s long-distance trains.
That triggered a major campaign of pro-passenger rail rallies, initiated by NARP and carried out by NARP members and local residents at many of the towns and cities now being served by the national network . And it worked. The House of Representatives, dominated by Republicans, has released its draft budget. In a burst of unexpected generosity, the members actually increased the authorization for Amtrak by more than $300 million.
The very same Trump budget also took a bead on the Essential Air Service program, which pays out some $175 million every year to subsidize small rural airports scattered across the west and mid-west. In a way, we’re glad to see that because the EAS is frequently cited by passenger rail advocates to refute the notion that the aviation industry operates without any federal subsidy.
At first blush, there seems to be reason for optimism. It’s the same old story: Senate and House members may talk tough, but when it comes down to a Moment of Truth, especially with NARP members calling their offices and raising hell, they can’t bring themselves to actually pull the trigger and vote against passenger rail. So y’all keep them cards and letters a-comin’ in, yuh hear?
Between this, the Senate healthcare bill being poised to fail, and the anti-trans amendment failing in the House, it’s been a great day!