TCU Assistant Legislative Director Tony Padilla reports that after 15 hours of fervent debate and votes on the nation’s budget for FY2009, on March 14, 2008 the House and Senate adopted a Budget Resolution that sets the stage for Appropriations for FY2009.
Senate Chairman Kent Conrad and Senator Frank Lautenberg were able to include funding of $1.8 billion for Amtrak and another $250 million for rail passenger infrastructure grants. This is a significant number for Amtrak because this is $1 billion above the funding level that President Bush allocated for Amtrak in his budget request to congress. President Bush requested only $800 million for Amtrak. This figure was received dead on arrival because it would have forced Amtrak into bankruptcy, but it was a typical figure for this administration and its efforts to kill Amtrak.
Chairman Conrad’s level of funding includes $453 million above the 2008 level adjusted for inflation years to enhance its operations. Although this resolution is nonbinding, it sets the stage for a good start that could, in the end, include the $114 million obligation to cover the Amtrak agreement with the unions for retroactive pay that resulted from the PEB recommendation. Amtrak President Alex Kummant in his request to the Appropriations Committees for FY 2009 asked for $1.671 billion but did not include in this figure the $114 million needed for this obligation which was made contingent to appropriations.