MO Budget a Death Sentence for Amtrak

WASHINGTON, Mo. -- Missouri Governor Bob Holden's budget proposal "is a death sentence for Amtrak," according to Missouri State Representative John Griesheimer, Washington, the Washington Missourian reports.

Unless the legislature is able to move Amtrak and other transportation programs out of the Rainy Day Fund, where the Holden budget has put them for financing, Griesheimer said Amtrak "will die" Friday, May 10, at 6 p.m. when the General Assembly ends this session.

"Amtrak would be able to run to June 30 before halting service in Missouri. It will run out of money by then. June 30 will be a memorial day service for Amtrak," the Republican lawmaker told The Missourian Friday.

The problem with funding from the Rainy Day Fund is that it takes a two-thirds vote of both chambers to use that money, he explained, and added that he doesn't think it would be possible to get a two-thirds vote.

Griesheimer asserted that in the last five years nearly 100,000 people have arrived and departed on Amtrak trains at Washington.

"The governor has killed Amtrak by moving it out of MoDOT's budget and putting funding through the Rainy Day Fund--that's the kiss of death," Griesheimer charged.

He said the Holden budget also would cut funding for OATS statewide by $530,000; for the Franklin County Transportation Council by about $16,000; and Bi-State funding would be cut by $3.9 million. Also transit programs in all of Missouri's larger cities would be reduced. The Holden budget cuts $1.3 million for transportation programs for the elderly and handicapped.

The state appropriated about $6.4 million for Amtrak in this past fiscal year. About $4.8 million of that comes from general revenue. It is estimated that Amtrak loses about $2 million a year in Missouri with the two daily trains between St. Louis and Kansas City.

Griesheimer said the state constitution requires that any money taken out of the Rainy Day Fund must be paid back with interest within three years.

"Since I was first elected to public office in 1982 and during my ten years in the Missouri House, one of my goals was to get Amtrak to stop in Washington and that dream was realized October 29, 1995 . . . more importantly, had it not been for the Amtrak stop, our beautiful former MoPac passenger station on the Washington riverfront would not have received funding for renovation and restoration," Griesheimer said. He added that he will do everything he can do to restore funding for Amtrak.