Murray on the Bush Administration's "Emergency" Amtrak Meeting

Jun 22 2002

Sen. Patty Murray warns Sec. Mineta not to make David Gunn the scapegoat for Administration failure

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - In response to the Bush Administration's belated recognition of the Amtrak crisis, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, released the following statement.

It was Murray's hearing on Amtrak's financial future on Thursday (6/20/02) that forced the Administration to finally release its Amtrak reform proposal and acknowledge the current crisis.

"It is astonishing to hear Secretary Norm Mineta voice surprise over the severity of Amtrak's financial condition. Over the last several weeks, his own Deputy Secretary who serves for him on Amtrak's Board has participated in innumerable meetings and conference calls on the subject including meetings with Amtrak's auditor. Nonetheless, it is heartening to see the Bush Administration finally engaging in this crisis.

Last Thursday, Secretary Mineta made a speech outlining a number of vague but controversial proposals for Amtrak's future, the essence of which was to foist Amtrak's costs onto the States. Later that day, Amtrak President David Gunn told my transportation subcommittee that Mineta's proposals were misguided and unworkable. He also allowed that Secretary Mineta had not had even one conversation with him about his proposals before making his speech.

The goal of Amtrak's Board Meeting on Monday (6/24/02) should be to ensure the continuation of rail service in this country by insisting that the Bush Administration either issue a loan guarantee or request a supplemental appropriation from Congress. The goal should not be to chastise a CEO for sharing his frank and experienced views on a set of policy proposals on which he was never consulted.

To date, the Bush Administration has refused to face up to Amtrak's real costs, either for the remainder of this year or next year. The Administration would do well to support Mr. Gunn's funding requests and consult with him as to how to improve rail service in this country rather than consult with OMB ideologues as to how to dismantle it."