|ONLINE VERSION||MAY 2000|
|Amtrak Reform Council One Year Later|
Using Taxpayer Dollars To Dismantle Amtrak
The following AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department Policy Resolution No. W00-06, adopted February 14, 2000, was included in the record of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Amtrak oversight hearing held in late February.
The Amtrak Reform Council was created in 1997 as part of the Amtrak reauthorization legislation to provide oversight of the reforms in Amtrak operations and finances that were instituted by Congress. The publicly stated purpose of the ARC was to provide objective assessments of Amtrak operations and offer ideas to secure the long term viability of America's passenger railroad. Instead, the ARC majority has ignored its mandate and set its mission to carry out an ideologically driven agenda.
Transportation labor, Congress and many in the passenger rail community have been suspicious of the motivations of the ARC since its inception. Because some members of the ARC have records favoring privatization and bolstering competition with Amtrak as a solution to passenger rail issues, it is clear that the ARC leans against preserving Amtrak as a national railroad.
As indicated in the ARC's release in January of its first annual report to Congress, these suspicions have been confirmed. The report, entitled A Preliminary Assessment of Amtrak, demonstrates an ideological bias against the railroad and a 'dismantle and privatize' mentality that has governed the ARC's proceedings to date. The report confirms transportation labor's thinking during the creation of the ARC that it would amount to nothing more than a front for those seeking the privatization or outright elimination of Amtrak.
First of all, the report contains several misleading and unsubstantiated factual inaccuracies. The most glaring example is that the ARC staff has "worked closely" with railway labor organizations. Nothing could be further from the truth as the ARC has deliberately distanced itself from rail labor. In addition, the Federal Railroad Administrator responded to the report by indicating that some of its findings and recommendations related to implementation of the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997 are inconsistent with the intent of the Administration and Congress with regards to that legislation.
More generally, the tone of the report reflects the
pro-privatization attitude of many of the ARC's members. For example,
the report makes several specific references to the apparent
attributes of privatization for Amtrak but fails to even mention the
sacrifices made by the system and its workers to reduce costs and yet
maintain a high level of service. Instead of making positive
recommendations to improve Amtrak, the report demonstrates a
definitive bias in favor of dismantling Amtrak and allowing private
sector predators (many of which have relationships with certain ARC
members) to pick off Amtrak's most desirable parts.
Since its inception, the overriding mandate of the ARC has been to pursue an anti-Amtrak agenda, not to build an efficient first-class passenger railroad. Unfortunately, this report is consistent with that agenda. The report conveys a hopeless pessimism about the future of Amtrak as it sets the stage to recommend the dismantling of our national passenger railroad.
Therefore, be it resolved:
That transportation labor will expose the ARC's recent report to Congress as simply another indication that the ARC is dedicated to, and is now positioning itself to recommend, the elimination of Amtrak as America's passenger rail network;
That TTD will continue to communicate with like-minded ARC members and members of Congress about the need to focus the nation on maintaining Amtrak's national network, not dismantling it because certain ARC members have a negative predisposition towards the continuation of Amtrak; and
That TTD will express to Congress and the Clinton Administration that the ARC has wasted taxpayer dollars, ignored its mandate and produced no meaningful recommendations addressing the issues facing Amtrak and the future of national passenger rail service and therefore is unworthy of continued federal funding.
This Week with Sam Donaldson & Cokie Roberts
Excerpted from an interview with Senator John McCain on February 27, 2000. McCain is Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
DONALDSON: That was the process, you've explained that. But certainly, in the case of Amtrak, you have a long record of opposing subsidies to Amtrak, just the process.
MCCAIN: I have been opposed to a continuous expenditure of money that has not been successful in bringing about what they have said, the Amtrak people have said, that they would do, and that is make it a profitable operation.
DONALDSON: But, Senator, New York would-New York commuters would die without Amtrak.
MCCAIN: But New York commuters deserve not having their tax dollars used to subsidize a continuously losing proposition and they deserve that. And so do the voters of Arizona, and the voters of Utah and the voters of Oregon that never get to ride Amtrak but their tax dollars are going there.
MCCAIN: Amtrak has already said they would. We passed a law that says that Amtrak has to do that or go out of business. So yes, I would ask them to comply with the law.