Murray Warns Administration: Accounting Gimmicks Won't Help Amtrak

Jun 25 2002

The accounting gimmicks being pursued by the Administration are so tortured they would make Ken Lay blush

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – As Amtrak prepared to shut down operations for the first time in 31 years, the DOT met behind closed doors on a creative accounting scheme to finance the nation's passenger rail service. Sen. Patty Murray, Chair of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, released the following statement.

"Last week I held a hearing on Amtrak's finances that forced the Administration to finally acknowledge the Amtrak crisis. Today I'm concerned that the Administration's plan could make Amtrak's problems worse. The negotiations underway between Secretary Mineta and the Amtrak Board currently in their second day, should be raising red flags.

The Bush Administration is still refusing to provide Amtrak with the money it needs. Instead, the DOT is trying to cook up schemes where Amtrak asks its debtors -- including the States -- to speed up their payments to Amtrak, while asking Amtrak to slow down the payments of its own debts.

These schemes are designed to let Amtrak limp through the fiscal year without the money it really needs to continue serving hundreds of thousands of rail passengers. The accounting gimmicks being pursued by the Administration are so tortured they would make Ken Lay blush. These gimmicks, like a loan guarantee that borrows against a future appropriation, will only compound Amtrak's problems when the new fiscal year begins in October.

The Bush Administration continues to insist on providing less than half of the funding Amtrak's President, David Gunn, says Amtrak needs to operate next year.

When Mr. Gunn took the job, he said that the first thing he needed to do was restore Amtrak's credibility – with the States, with the Congress, and with the business community. Pressuring Amtrak to play these financial games will only undermine its credibility without making needed investments.

It's time to stop playing games with our nation's rail service -- and to stop playing games with more than 23,000 employees and hundreds of thousands of Amtrak passengers and commuter passengers around the country.

Today, they are wondering if the trains will be running next week. Congress is ready to provide the funding. We need the Administration to join us with a real plan that will help Amtrak succeed, not accounting gimmicks that lead it to fail. I urge the White House to join us in supporting this emergency appropriation."