Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has indicated that he plans to slash funding for Amtrak service in the state by 40 percent on July 1.
The governor’s plan is to cut the funding from $42 million to $26 million as part of some $820 million in spending cuts that he plans to impose if there is not budget agreement by the time the 2016 fiscal year begins on July 1.
Rauner, a Republican, vetoed an earlier budget sent to him by the Illinois General Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats.
The governor said that budget was nearly $4 billion out of balance. The legislature earlier passed a school funding bill that Rauner signed.
Although Amtrak has said it is unclear what effect the wrangling over the budget will have on its state-supported, Richard Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, said in a statement that the cuts would result in fewer trains and higher fares.
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said Amtrak is awaiting official word as to how funding Illinois will provide for the service it helps underwrite on routes linking Chicago with Milwaukee, St. Louis, Quincy and Carbondale.
“We’ve not had any formal word from Illinois DOT,” Magliari said. “We’re still accepting bookings for current levels of service.”
Some observers have seen Rauner’s announcement of a new series of cuts to state programs as a strategy to prod Democratic leaders to include some of the governor’s pro-business proposals in a compromise budget deal.
In particular, Democrats have balked at Rauner’s attempts to alter worker compensation laws and have voted down his push for a property tax freeze.
Democrats have proposed extending an income tax hike that is scheduled to expire, but Rauner said he won’t support that without the legislature adopting at least five of his initiatives.
In a spending proposal made in February, Rauner said he wanted to reduce Amtrak funding subsidy by 40 percent, a move that Amtrak said would result in cuts to Illinois Amtrak service. The specter of Amtrak cuts prompted statements of concern from lawmakers and university town officials, who say the reductions would hurt students, business and tourism.
The budget bill approved by the General Assembly would keep Amtrak funding at its current $42 million level.
For now, Amtrak is continuing to operate under its current schedule. “We don’t anticipate any July 1 change,” Magliari said.