Senators blast proposed transportation cuts

Baucus, Tester Vow To Reverse Aviation and Amtrak Cuts

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Montana's U.S. Senators vowed today to fight proposed cuts in funding to Amtrak and the Essential Air Service (EAS).  The cuts are part of the President's Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Plan, and would mean tougher travels for Montanans and folks trying to reach and do business in Big Sky Country.

"The proposed budget cuts to EAS and Amtrak won't work for Montana," Senator Max Baucus said.  "Montanans have just as much, if not more need for these essential travel options.  Traveling is stressful enough without cutting programs and funding that keep our airports and trains running smoothly, safely and securely. It's the same song, different verse. Every year the Administration proposes these drastic cuts, and every year we fight to get the dollars restored. This year will be no different."

"Montana is a huge, rural state and we can't afford to lose any transportation options," said Senator Jon Tester.  "EAS is not—and never was—some icing-on-the cake program.  It's about making sure rural communities have access to opportunities and emergency supplies they need to survive."

The proposed budget eliminates more than half of the overall EAS spending, trimming it down to $50M for FY09—the bare minimum required.

Montana has seven airports served by EAS—Glasgow, Glendive, Havre, Lewistown, Miles City, Sidney, and Wolf Point.

For overall aviation funding, the administration proposes to cut discretionary spending by nearly $8 billion and then make up the shortfall in increased user fees, which will mean higher ticket prices to Montana customers.

In addition, the President's budget cuts approximately $450 million from the Federal Railroad Administration. This means significant cuts to Amtrak, including the Empire Builder, which travels from Chicago to Seattle/Portland along Montana's Hi-Line.  In cutting Amtrak, the administration proposes to slash spending on both maintenance and repair.  The plan would also concentrate much of the remaining funding in the northeast U.S. — rather than in rural areas such as Montana.

"This budget is symptomatic of an administration that does not understand the needs of rural Americans," Baucus said. "Too much of our economy and livelihood is based in travel for this budget to move forward like this."

"The President's budget is about as out-of-touch with Montana values as you can get," Tester said. "We need to be making investments in the infrastructure of our country, not putting programs essential to rural America on the chopping block."