Amtrak has been stripped of nearly all its state funding by the House. Amendment by amendment, state representatives moved undesignated funding from Amtrak to various other budgets.
The House has completed initial work on the budget, hearing amendments to the $21 billion dollar spending plan that begins July first. Another series of votes is necessary to move the budget to the Senate. Amtrak had been budgeted to receive $7.4 million. The House has taken all by $1.1 million in designated funds from the passenger rail service between Kansas City and St. Louis.
The first amendment shifted $100,000 from Amtrak to a health clinic in southwest Missouri. Amendments taking $300,000 for veteran programs and $640,000 for Lincoln University followed. Then, Rep. Mike Dethrow (R-Alton) swept more than $5 million from Amtrak and shifted it to public school transportation.
Missouri Department of Transportation Multimodal Operations Director, Brian Weiler, says it’s important to keep the House action in perspective. Weiler points out that the House took a similar measure two years ago, but the Senate restored Amtrak funding. Weiler does say what the House left won’t be enough to keep the trains running. He estimates it would take at least $4 million to keep one train running.
Several lawmakers argued against the cuts to Amtrak, saying that even the debate would have ramifications on ridership, sending a signal that the legislature isn’t committed to the passenger rail service. Amtrak serves roughly 175,000 passengers annually in Missouri.