[NFBMO] Draft budget would keep Amtrak Missouri River Runner round trips
cory.j.mcmahon at gmail.com
Sat Mar 21 16:41:07 UTC 2020
Please note that it is not known when the legislature will return to the
Capitol. Yesterday, it was announced that a Missouri House member from the
Kansas City area tested positive for the coronavirus, and capitol employees
have been directed to not go into the Capitol for ten days. The legislature
is on their annual spring break now, and things are quite fluid. Also
yesterday, during Governor Parson's daily press briefing, he reported that
he had a conference call with legislative leaders of both parties; however,
beyond noting that he told them: "this is not a political issue, and I hope
that people don't make this a political issue", no other specifics were
given as to what he discussed with legislative leaders. Moreover, he's said:
"We're going to have to think about the budget differently this year." We're
in unprecedented times-so there's a real possibility that the budget which
the House budget committee voted out on March 16 will look quite different
in coming weeks. I don't know more than that; but, I'll try to keep folks as
up-to-date as possible.
From: NFBMO <nfbmo-bounces at nfbnet.org> On Behalf Of Daniel Garcia via NFBMO
Sent: Saturday, March 21, 2020 10:55 AM
To: NFB of Missouri Mailing List (nfbmo at nfbnet.org) <nfbmo at nfbnet.org>
Cc: Daniel Garcia <dangarcia3 at hotmail.com>
Subject: [NFBMO] Draft budget would keep Amtrak Missouri River Runner round
Thank you Shelia for bringing this to my attention.
You can read the article here:
For your convenience, I have pasted the text of the article below my
I will point out one thing from the article: "The Amtrak funding is a
relatively small portion of MoDOT's $3.66 billion budget. But while the vast
majority of MoDOT's functions are paid by dedicated user fees, fuel taxes
and federal funds, Amtrak is funded by the state's general revenue."
Note that dedicated user fees pay "the vast majority" of MODOT's budget, not
100% of the budget. We don't know what this "vast majority" is; it could be
66%, 80%, etc. The point is, if the legislature is willing to subsidize
roads for the benefit of people who drive cars, there is no reason why they
should not subsidize passenger rail service.
In this era when we have drive-through COVID-19 testing, drive-through
banking service, etc., it may come as a shock to many people that some of us
do not own a car, and it is not just the blind. In my experience, whenever
we have an emergency situation, the emergency is used to try to shut off
debate and to deny people their rights. We all read how there was a
provision in the stimulus bill that would give schools the authority to
waive IDEA requirements.
It is very important now more than ever that we make our voices heard on
this topic and other issues that affect us as blind people.
Daniel Garcia, President, Kansas City Chapter National Federation of the
Blind of Missouri dangarcia3 at hotmail.com
Live the life you want.
Draft budget would keep Amtrak Missouri River Runner round trips A budget
plan advanced by a House committee would keep Amtrak's Missouri River Runner
service running two round trips between St. Louis and Kansas City every day,
but lawmakers still need a way to pay for it.
by Brendan Crowley Mar. 16 2020 @ 9:25am
A group of passengers load onto the Missouri River Runner Amtrak train to
Kansas City on Tuesday evening. The trains had not been running over the
last several days due to high floodwaters but opened up again Monday. Photo
by Greta Cross / News Tribune.
A budget plan advanced by a House committee would keep Amtrak's Missouri
River Runner service running two round trips between St. Louis and Kansas
City every day, but lawmakers still need a way to pay for it.
Amtrak trains on the Missouri River Runner line make two daily round trips
between St. Louis and Kansas City, with eight stops in between. The state
has built up a $12 million debt to Amtrak over the past decade, and
lawmakers are debating whether to cut service or set aside more money for
House Budget Chair Cody Smith, R-Carthage, moved last week to stop the state
from subsidizing more than one round trip a day. The committee voted 19-16
on Sunday to undo his amendment, but Smith warned they can't keep
underfunding the service and that lawmakers would need to find a way to pay
the full Amtrak bill.
Under Smith's amendment, the River Runner could still run twice a day, he
said. The state would just pay to subsidize one trip, so Amtrak would have
to look at raising fares to make up the difference, he said.
The Legislature has appropriated $9.1 million to pay the contract each year
since 2017, and it asked for the same core funding this year.
That's never been enough to cover the contract, which operating costs and
inflation have pushed from $10.6 million in 2017 to $12 million next year -
meaning the state will owe $2.9 million more than the core appropriation for
River Runner service for next year alone. To pay the debt and the shortage
for this year and next, the Missouri Department of Transportation would need
another $12.2 million from the Legislature, which the current plan includes.
Smith said his plan was to pay what the state owes, then limit the service
to what the Legislature was willing to pay for so it didn't end up owing
money again. If the state doesn't pay its bill right away, it's going to
start growing even faster.
With directions from Congress to try to break even or turn a profit, Amtrak
started charging 12 percent interest on the state's arrears last year. So
far, Amtrak hasn't threatened to stop service over the late bill, but MoDOT
Director Patrick McKenna previously told the News Tribune he believes they
would at some point. That would trigger another bill for the state.
The Legislature agreed in 2014 to keep the train running in exchange for $50
million from the federal government to improve stations along the line. If
Amtrak shut down service, the state would have to pay back about $36 million
State Rep. Aaron Griesheimer, R-Washington, pushed to undo Smith's amendment
and keep funding two trips a day. He represents Hermann and Washington, both
stops on the River Runner.
Griesheimer and representatives from St. Louis and Kansas City argued it was
good for commuters and tourism, keeping traffic off the highway and bringing
visitors to spend money. It also has value in connecting the two largest
cities in Missouri at a subsidized cost, they said.
Cutting service to once a day would also make it impossible for commuters to
use it since they would need to find another one-way form of transportation
for the other leg of their trip, Griesheimer said. That would be another
blow to ridership, and McKenna said Amtrak could pull the service entirely
if it wasn't viable, triggering the $36 million bill to the federal
State Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, said people in her district frequently
ride the train from Kirksville to Hermann or Washington and back for a day
trip, spending money in those towns, which rely on tourists. Every dollar
the state spends on tourism results in tourists spending more money within
the state, she said.
Lavender proposed using tourism funds to cover the remaining balance, but
she withdrew her amendment after Lynn Struemph, director of finance for the
Division of Tourism, testified that they would have to cut advertising and
promotions if the money was taken from that fund.
"Tax dollars benefit the entire state," Lavender said. "Whether people are
traveling from my district or Rep. Griesheimer's district, they are spending
The Amtrak funding is a relatively small portion of MoDOT's $3.66 billion
budget. But while the vast majority of MoDOT's functions are paid by
dedicated user fees, fuel taxes and federal funds, Amtrak is funded by the
state's general revenue.
State Rep. Dirk Deaton, R-Noel, said Sunday that the Legislature has to
consider that it will have to appropriate more money each year to pay for
the gap between the core appropriation and the rising contract if it decides
to keep subsidizing two trips a day. That gap is $2.6 million this year and
$2.9 million next year, and it will continue to rise as the cost of the
When the issue came up in a January budget hearing, Deaton criticized how
much the state was subsidizing the service. The state's per-rider
contribution to the service has increased from $48 in 2014 to $53 this year.
It would be $124 next year under MoDOTs plan to pay off all its arrears in
one year, and $70 if the state paid its full contract. The state subsidy is
more than some riders pay, with tickets from Kansas City to St. Louis
running from $36-$87.
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