News & Reviews News Wire House set to vote on spending bill with big Amtrak cuts, prohibition on California high-speed rail funding

House set to vote on spending bill with big Amtrak cuts, prohibition on California high-speed rail funding

By Trains Staff | October 31, 2023

Appropriations bill set for Wednesday vote retains 64% reduction in Amtrak funding

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Trains Washington Watch logoWASHINGTON — The House of Representatives is set to vote Wednesday on an appropriations bill that would cut Amtrak funding by more than 60% and block federal support for the California high speed rail program.

H.R. 4820, which funds the Department of Transportation and Department of Housing and Urban Development, includes in the budget for the Federal Railroad Administration the cuts proposed earlier this year by Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee. Those would reduce total spending from $2.453 billion in 2023 to $875 million, including a cut in Northeast Corridor spending from $1.25 billion to $99 million [see “House Republicans propose 64% cut to Amtrak budget …,” Trains News Wire, July 12, 2023]. It also specifies that “None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available under this Act or any other Act may be provided to the State of California for a high-speed rail corridor” the same or similar to the one currently under construction.

Table showing Amtrak funding in 2023 and varying proposals for funding in 2024
Source: Rail Passengers Association

It also maintains the proposed cut of more than 50% in Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement, or CRISI, grants from their current levels to $258.5 million, as well as other cuts in the GOP proposal.

Even if the bill passes the Republican-controlled House, it is unlikely to survive in its current form in the Democratically controlled Senate or be signed by President Joe Biden. The Biden administration issued a statement Monday in which it said it “strongly opposes House passage” of the bill, saying House Republicans “are wasting time with partisan bills that cut domestic spending to levels well below the FRA agreement” — a spending deal negotiated in May with since-deposed House Speaker Kevin McCarthy — “and endanger critical services for the American people.” Specifically regarding rail spending, the statement says the administration “is concerned by the bill’s lack of investment to improve the safety and efficiency of the nation’s passenger and freight rail network” and opposes the provision blocking California high speed rail spending.

The Transportation Trades Division of the AFL-CIO on Tuesday released a statement calling for representatives to vote against the bill, saying, “The entirety of rail labor stands in opposition to the proposed draconian funding cuts in the legislation that would devastate U.S. passenger and freight rail networks and the dedicated rail workers that run them.”

— Updated Nov. 1 at 7:30 a.m. with Transportation Trades Division statement.

14 thoughts on “House set to vote on spending bill with big Amtrak cuts, prohibition on California high-speed rail funding

  1. Once again I will state my perspective:
    – Amtrak should be reorganized as an authority like the FAA.
    – Establish design and engineering standards for passenger rail (not unlike airplanes)
    – Setup a national train traffic control system so that Amtrak managed routes provide the least amount of interference with freight
    – Set up service regions and slots and have them bid out to a service provider (just like gates)
    – Run train terminals like airport gates. When someone bids for a service slot, they get a gate
    – Allow multiple providers to serve a service region/slot
    – If a state(s) wants to create a new service slot, they have to pay for it
    – If the slot can maintain 2 bidders for at least 5 years, the slot goes from the state bid authority to the national bid authority
    – If a city want a service slot, and the state won’t seed fund it, the city has to seed fund it.
    – If the city slot can maintain 2 bidders for at least 5 years, then it can go to state bidding, or if the volume warrants it, straight to national bidding.

    By partitioning the bid authority by city, state and national, it allows new routes or low volume routes to be developed but keep large national bidders from pushing out regional bidders to keep new markets from being opened.
    If a city or state wants a slot and they have no existing rail service, it will be up to them to get the needed funding to build the connection via their local highway departments and state DOT’s. Treat new rail service like a highway essentially from a funding perspective. Any routes funded by the state or local DOT’s do not have to pay the “Amtrak Tax” to reimburse legacy railroads for use of their rails.

    1. As nice as that would be, if anything like this were introduced in the House, the automobile and airline lobbyists would work their butts off to kill it.

  2. I am ok with defunding California initiatives for high speed rail. If Californians wish this, then they can pay for it. We have already seen the cost overages for its construction to this point, and with federal dollars to boot. Taxing the few rich for the many poor will not work; not enough wealth to begin with!

  3. Sounds to me like the UAW strike is making the Detroit automakers desperate, so they’ve turned to using their lobbyists to gut public transit and keep people reliant on cars.

  4. Also how about cutting these politicians salaries down to size? If they can agree to a vote to cut our Secretary of Defense down to a dollar a year and that was on the whim of a certain congresswoman from Georgia with wild and wacky ideas and theories why not do it to these congressmen and women who are not worthy of or deserve the salaries they are pulling in. If the country once again runs out of money on Nov 17 thousands of government workers who have bills to pay and families to support and raise that will go without any pay and are already struggling to maintain a decent lifestyle while these idiots in Congress argue and debate amongst themselves about what to cut back on and slash , they will continue to get their salaries while the country teeters on the brink of disaster and is already the laughingstock of the rest of world. Talk about fiddling while Rome burns In this case I will say fumbling and fidgiting while thousands of Americans go hungry , living in the streets without decent housing or shelter risk going into financial ruin and losing whatever jobs they do have. What a sad and disgraceful state this once great and respected nation has become. All because of a handful of mean spirited and spiteful politicans who want theri own way and have a secret agenda that they are trying to impose on America. Great leaders like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and Abramham Lincoln along with more recent leaders like Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy and even Ronald Reagan must be rolling around in their graves when and if they can see what this nation has become and the dangerous path our so called leaders and wanna bes are leading this nation down. Just like the Roman Empire and the British Empire went into decay and destruction, so it will be some day that future historians will be lamenting about the decline and fall of a once great and respected nation called America
    Joseph C. Markfelder

  5. Same old stale ideas. How about…Eliminate tax cuts for the rich; eliminate farm subsidies to corp farms & millionaire farmers; eliminate subsidies to oil/gas companies; make big pharma accept pricing levels like Europe; quit bailing out the Hwy trust Fund let it go broke & raise the gas tax to reimburse the Treasury for all the $100 billion + that’s been siphoned from it since 2009 to continually cover its shortfall.

  6. Maybe we should just eliminate Amtrak and passenger rail totally and go back to horse and buggy days. Give everybody a hose and wagon to get around. Eliminate everything and make the Republicans and the MAGA bunch very happy by saving the billions they propose from their budget and funnel it back into the coffers of the Wall Street syndicate and all to all their rich and wealthy friends or better yet, keep the USA as the policeman of the world by supporting and arming all these nations and their never ending wars and conflicts. That goes for ALL nations. Our country is heading for financial collapse, civil war and discord and a breakdown of our intrasttucture. while we help the world out and try to be a peacemaker with no sucess. Wise up America! time to clean up things in Washington and also elect leaders with sense, creative solutions to the problems facing us and also learn how to work with each other and that calls for new young vibrant leaders and not the grumpy old men that have been and are our leaders now and rather should be tending their homes and gardens and stay retired. It is time for these old men to step aside and pass the torch and baton on to a new generation of leaders but of course not the bunch we have now and are only leading this great nation of ours down the path of ruin and destruction.
    Joseph C. Markfelder

  7. Cut Amtrak? Welcome to the 1970’s. In our current time, the government wastes more money in a single day on useless, destructive programs, than it spends on Amtrak in a year.

    It probaby costs more to get Joe Biden (and his entourage and bodyguards) to Delaware every weekend, than Amtrak costs.

    1. Most likely cheaper to get President Biden to Delaware than it did to get #45 to Mar-a-Lardo every weekend and to various golf courses during the week. Probably still cheaper than supplying Secret Service agents round the clock for all the “rally” trips and court cases for the 91 times charged ex-Presidente.

    2. No sane person wants a rematch between the two most recent presidents. Garbage and garbage. (And I’m being kind.)

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