Amtrak and Essential Air Service appear to have survived an attempt from President Donald Trump to eliminate both.
House Resolution 3354 in the House of Representatives recently concluded debate and passage of several sections of the resolution. HR 3354 is the 2018 budget bill. Any bill passing would have to negotiated with a Senate budget before being sent to Trump for his signature.
According to members of Congress, an amendment proposed by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) to eliminate $1.1 billion in federal subsidies for Amtrak failed on a 128-293 vote. Eliminating EAS funding was also on the table, but it was rejected as well.
Trump’s proposed 2018 budget, according to the Department of Transportation, would limit funding for the Federal Transit Administration's Capital Investment program, end federal support for long-distance Amtrak trains and gut funding for the EAS.
According to the White House press office, the president would sign H.R. 3354 in its current state — pending approval by the full House — but "the bill, however, includes unrequested funding for Capital Improvement Grants, Essential Air Service and Amtrak contrary to reforms proposed in the FY 2018 Budget.
"These reforms would respectively, limit funding for local transit projects that should be funded by States and localities the benefit from their use, eliminate discretionary funding and focus on remote airports that are most in need of subsidized commercial air service, and terminate Federal support for long-distance train services that serve a small percentage of the population and generate significant operating losses."
Both train service and EAS are important to Dodge City. PenAir, Dodge City’s current EAS provider, is departing on Monday due to a combination of Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring and a large number of pilots resigning after the Chapter 11 filing.
PenAir’s closing leaves Garden City the closest airline service to Dodge City and also has city officials trying to lure another airline to the area.
The Southwest Chief Amtrak services Dodge City on daily runs east to Chicago and west to Los Angeles. The Southwest Chief also services Garden City and Newton.
H.R. 3354 does get rid of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program, which was set up by the Obama administration’s 2009 economic stimulus package to provide an extra injection of cash for surface transportation projects.
TIGER grants are a generally popular funding tool among cities and states, but have drawn the ire of some Republicans, as the funding was appropriated, but never approved, through Congress.
"The Administration appreciates that the bill supports the FY 2018 Budget request to eliminate funding for TIGER Grants, given that Federal funding should not be directed to projects with localized benefits that often do not rise to the level of national or regional significance," the press office release said.
While the budget is currently being debated by the House, eliminating EAS and Amtrak was not backed by Kansas politicians.
Sarah Little, communications director for Sen. Pat Roberts, said the senator would oppose dropping funding for the two programs in any Senate proposal.
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