October 21, 1997
H.R. 2247 - Amtrak Reform and Privatization Act of 1997
(Shuster (R) Pennsylvania)
The Administration strongly opposes House passage of H.R. 2247 unless it is
amended to delete objectionable provisions that would:
Finally, H.R. 2247 should be amended to provide for substantial involvement of
the Executive Branch, including the Treasury Department, in the development and
implementation of any Amtrak privatization plans.
- Repeal important statutory, economic, and collective bargaining rights
of Amtrak employees. Further progress can be made within the existing
labor-management relations structure.
- Override State liability laws by imposing arbitrary caps on
damages arising from passenger rail accidents or by imposing exceptionally
strict standards for punitive damages. Amtrak has successfully renegotiated
most of its operating agreements with freight railroads within the current
State law systems.
- Delay the deadline by which certain Amtrak facilities must comply with
the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Replace Amtrak's current board of Directors with a new Board.
The current Board has proved capable of directing Amtrak during this time when
difficult issues must be addressed. (The Administration supports (1) removing
existing restrictions on the President's authority to appoint future members
of Amtrak's Board and (2) requiring that such appointees be confirmed by the
- Subordinate the Federal interest as a creditor in the event of a
default. This and other proposed changes in the Section 511 Railroad Loan
Guarantee program are not appropriate. Instead, the Administration urges
enactment of its alternative financing and credit proposals set forth in its
"National Economic Crossroads Transportation Efficiency Act of 1997"
(NEXTEA). These proposals empower States to make choices that best suit their
transportation needs, including public rail freight, and are preferable to the
Section 511 program which provides benefits directly to private freight
- Eliminate the Secretary of Transportation's liquidation preference and
voting rights on the Amtrak preferred stock held by the Secretary, require
the United States to relinquish all rights held in connection with any note
obtained or mortgage made on Amtrak property, and eliminate Amtrak's status as
a mixed ownership Government corporation fully subject to the Government
Corporation Control Act. Given the substantial Federal investment and public
policy interest in Amtrak, any privatization effort will necessarily require a
great deal of careful analysis. Until that analysis is done, the proposed
elimination of Federal financial and other involvement with Amtrak is premature.