Press Releases

T&I Members’ Bills Will Increase Transparency and Accountability at Amtrak

Washington, D.C., June 11, 2024 | Justin Harclerode (202) 225-9446
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Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Members today announced two bills that will bring much needed transparency and accountability to Amtrak by making the federal entity subject to Government in the Sunshine Act open meetings requirements and ensuring it cannot hide from the public decisions to award massive bonuses to top executives.

Legislation introduced by Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Troy E. Nehls (R-TX), the Amtrak Transparency and Accountability for Passengers and Taxpayer Act, requires that Amtrak be subject to the same Sunshine Act requirements as other federal agencies and government-sponsored-style entities.

In addition, a bill to be introduced by U.S. Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-NY), the Amtrak Executive Bonus Disclosure Act, requires Amtrak to notify Congress when it plans to offer bonuses to executives and to publicly disclose the awarding of such bonuses.

Tomorrow at 2:00p.m. (ET), Chairman Nehls will lead a hearing of the Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee to examine Amtrak’s current operations and ridership, spending, and rail network plans.  Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner and Amtrak Chair of the Board Anthony Coscia are among the witnesses scheduled to testify.

Amtrak Transparency and Accountability for Passengers and Taxpayer Act
Chairman Nehls’ legislation applies the requirements of the Sunshine Act to Amtrak, including requirements for meetings of Amtrak’s Board of Directors to be open to the public.  Despite the fact that Amtrak’s Boards’ voting members are appointed by the President and subject to Senate confirmation, and that recent Supreme Court decisions have confirmed its federal status, Amtrak is not currently required by law to hold open meetings.  Amtrak also receives substantial funding from federal taxpayers, including an unprecedented $66 billion in guaranteed funding under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

Given the current lack of the Sunshine Act’s open meetings requirement, decisions by the Amtrak Board concerning the expenditure of billions of dollars in federal funding, the awarding of substantial bonuses to top executives, and other issues important to the public and policymakers are often made without any opportunity for outside observation.

The Amtrak Transparency and Accountability for Passengers and Taxpayer Act requires Amtrak to notify the public of the time, place, and location of pending meetings and allow for public observation unless closed under a Sunshine Act exemption.  When a meeting is closed for observation, Amtrak will be required to make available to the public a set of minutes providing a full and accurate summary of matters discussed and actions taken.

“The American people deserve to have a say in how their taxpayer funds are used in government-sponsored-style entities such as Amtrak,” said Chairman Nehls. “Over the past three-plus years of the disastrous policies of the Biden Administration, the American people are having to pay more for the basics and are struggling to stay afloat.  In 2021, despite having run substantial fiscal deficits, Amtrak decided to give its executives six-figure bonuses.  This is not only irresponsible but out of touch.  I’m proud to introduce the Amtrak Transparency and Accountability for Passengers and Taxpayer Act to provide the American people with the transparency they deserve in taxpayer-funded entities such as Amtrak.”

Click here to read Chairman Nehls’ bill.

Amtrak Executive Bonus Disclosure Act
Rep. Molinaro’s legislation requires Amtrak to notify and brief Congress 30 days before it awards any executive bonuses and to publicly disclose any executive bonuses that have been awarded through notice in the Federal Register, along with an explanation of the metrics and criteria used to determine the bonuses.

In 2022, Committee leaders questioned Amtrak’s justification for awarding top executives six-figure bonuses for 2021, a period of historic financial and ridership losses.  Amtrak’s fiscal year (FY) 2021 net loss was over $2 billion.  In FY 2022, Amtrak’s net loss was $1.825 billion, and $1.751 billion in FY 2023.

“Amtrak executives receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded bonuses without any public disclosure or explanation,” said Rep. Molinaro.  “They are a government funded entity and have failed to meet their commitment to make their trains and stations ADA accessible.  My bill holds the executives accountable to the riders, hardworking employees, and the people footing the bill – the American taxpayers.”

The Transport Workers Union of America has endorsed the Molinaro legislation.

Click here to read Rep. Molinaro’s bill.

Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) today also introduced similar legislation to increase transparency and accountability at Amtrak by requiring the Sunshine Act to apply to the rail service, and to ensure that Amtrak notifies both Congress and the public about its decisions to award executive bonuses. Her bill would also ensure that vendor agreements are disclosed in order to build better partnerships with passenger rail services. 

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