Amtrak News

Amtrak News Updates from Amtrak Conductor Dave Bowe.

Date: Mon, 28 Jul 1997 01:37:13 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Washington Update 7-25-97


1)  Bipartisan meetings of House and Senate conferees on the tax and budget
reconciliation bills and White House officials began on July 23rd.  It
appears that Amtrak's $2.3 Billion in capital funding will be part of any
overall deal.  The big question is  an overall deal will be
reached.  It could take into September [ summer recess is around the corner].

2)  Another likely outcome would be to shift all of the 4.3 cents of the
federal gas tax now going to deficit reduction into the Highway Trust Fund,
but with no mechanism to actually spend it.  No decision has been made on
whether to divide it between highways and transit on an 80/20 split as has
been the practice the last 15 years.  Amtrak would get its $2.3 Billion - as
a tax refund - tied to certain pre-1971 [preAmtrak] taxes paid by the private
railroads whose passenger operations Amtrak took over.  This refund is called
a "NET OPERATING-LOSS CARRY-BACK."  Most businesses can reduce their tax
liability by writing-off their losses, but until now, Amtrak has never
enjoyed a similar benefit, because it has not paid taxes.  The money would be
used only for capital and would be subject to passage of a reform
reauthorization bill that addresses labor and liability issues.  

3)  The Senate Amtrak Reauthorization Bill - S.738 likely will go to the
Senate floor after Labor Day.  But there could be trouble in the House.
 Chairman Bud Shuster of the House Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee has drafted a bill virtually identical to his bill that the House
passed on a vote of 406-4 two years ago.  Unfortunately even though the bill
includes the modifications that labor interests advocated two years ago,
labor now opposes those provisions.  Therefore it is not clear what will
happen next Wednesday July 30th when Shuster's committee marks-up this bill.
 If he fails, there is danger that the House leadership will lose interest in
passing an Amtrak Bill.  This could be fatal because Amtrak would never get
the $2.3 Billion in capital funds and could suffer in the appropriations
process as well.
Page 2

4)  The Senate Appropriations Committee approved S.1048 - the 1998
Transportation Funding Bill on Tuesday, July 22nd.  An amendment by Senator
Lautenberg (D/NJ) was approved bringing the Amtrak mandatory Railroad
Retirement payments figure back up to the $142 million level agreed by Amtrak
and The Administration.  That's $61 million more than the House's level, so
conferees will have to work that out later.  S.1048 likely will be on the
Senate floor Monday, July 28th.  

5)  The full House voted Wednesday July 23rd to approve HR.2169 - their
version of the 1998 Transportation Funding Bill. Acting on a point-of-order
raised by Chairman Bud Shuster - the House took out the "Amtrak Route Closing
language" which Transportation subcommittee Chairman Wolf (R/VA) had
included.  Wolf took the occasion to emphasize the importance of passing an
Amtrak Reform Reauthorization Bill.

6)  After August 1st, up to four unboxed bikes will be allowed on THE
CARDINAL.  Reservations and a $15 fee are required.  This is the first
overnight train to allow this service.  Bikes will be stored in one of the
two baggage racks in the lower level of the coach smoking car.


David Bowe
Amtrak Conductor

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