News Releases

Murray to Amtrak's Governing Board: Be Honest about Railroad's Needs

Feb 18 2005

In letter, Sens. Murray, Inouye call on Amtrak Board to fulfill mandated duty

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – One day after receiving the Amtrak Board of Directors’ financial report, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) today sent a letter to David M. Laney, the Chairman of the Board, admonishing the writers of the report for purposely evading the subject of federal subsidies.

“This year’s report as submitted by a largely new Board deliberately evades the question of the railroad’s subsidy needs and instead praises the President’s irresponsible proposal to bankrupt Amtrak as the ‘right message.’ Such an approach undermines Congress’ ability to assess Amtrak’s needs and is a disservice to the Corporation that you are charged with governing,” Murray and Inouye wrote.




The annual report, written by a Bush-Administration appointed Board of Directors, bucks the intent of the laws mandating its submission by avoiding any discussion of federal funding figures.

“The Congress and Amtrak’s 25 million annual riders expect the Amtrak Board to responsibly and independently work to improve and sustain a safe and efficient passenger railroad- not to dutifully line up behind the reckless policies of the President that appointed them,” the letter states.




The complete text of the Murray/Inouye letter follows:



February 18, 2005



The Honorable David M. Laney
Chairman
Board of Directors
National Railroad Passenger Corporation
60 Massachusetts Ave. N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20002





Dear Chairman Laney:



We write to you today having just received your letter dated February 17 and the accompanying reports regarding Amtrak’s financial condition as mandated under Subtitle V of Title 49, United States Code. Each and every year since Amtrak’s creation, the Board of Directors has submitted these reports to Congress, providing us with a vital and independent assessment of Amtrak’s Federal subsidy needs for the coming fiscal year. That is, until this year.



This year’s report as submitted by a largely new Board deliberately evades the question of the railroad’s subsidy needs and instead praises the President’s irresponsible proposal to bankrupt Amtrak as “the right message.” Such an approach undermines Congress’s ability to assess Amtrak’s needs and is a disservice to the Corporation that you are charged with governing. The law mandating these reports calls on the Amtrak Board to “submit recommendations for legislation, including the amount of financial assistance needed for operations and capital improvements” and every one of your predecessor Boards has done so. In just two weeks, the Congress is scheduled to begin drafting a Budget Resolution for the coming fiscal year. By not submitting a grant request prior to our budget considerations, you deliberately leave uncontested the Administration’s request to eliminate all funding for Amtrak and push the railroad into bankruptcy.



These actions on the part of the Board are irresponsible. In fiscal year 2004, some 37 percent of all of Amtrak’s revenues were derived through Federal grants. By not specifying Amtrak’s federal funding needs to Congress prior to our budget deliberations, the Board is failing to serve as independent stewards of the Corporation’s assets, operations, and employees and is ignoring its legal responsibility to Amtrak’s financial condition. We must question whether these actions are consistent with your fiduciary duties as Directors as stipulated under Title 29 of the Code of the District of Columbia and other applicable laws.



The Congress and Amtrak’s 25 million annual riders expect the Amtrak Board to responsibly and independently work to improve and sustain a safe and efficient passenger railroad – not to dutifully line up behind the reckless policies of the President that appointed them. In explaining why the Board has failed to submit a grant request, your letter states that the Board is going through a “strategic planning process” and that a grant request might be submitted “as the planning process permits.” No date is supplied as to when, if ever, this grant request might be forthcoming. We must respectfully point out that Amtrak’s Board has often engaged in critical planning processes regarding the railroad’s operations and infrastructure, but such endeavors have never kept any prior Board from submitting a grant request.



We hope that, in the future, the Amtrak Board will be attentive to these responsibilities so that we can all work cooperatively toward a sound rail transportation policy for the nation.



Sincerely,



Patty Murray
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury,
and General Government
Committee on Appropriations


Daniel K. Inouye
Ranking Member
Committee on Commerce
Science, and Transportation


cc: The Honorable Floyd Hall
The Honorable Enrique Sosa
The Honorable Norman Mineta
Mr. David Gunn (Ex Officio)