Bush Unwilling to Provide Funds to Guarantee Disabled Rights: Luken
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The chairman of a House subcommittee said Thursday that the Bush administration is unwilling to provide the money to back up its support for new legislation aimed at guaranteeing the rights of the disabled.
Rep. Thomas A. Luken, D-Ohio, leveled his criticism at a member of the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities during a hearing on Amtrak’s role in the Americans With Disabilities Act.
″We can’t agree to make Amtrak accessible (to the disabled) if there’s no Amtrak,″ Luken told Philip Calkins, director of public affairs for the president’s committee.
The chairman of the president’s committee, Justin Dart, has testified at a number of hearings on the legislation, which passed the Senate earlier this month. Witnesses have emphasized the administration’s support of the measure.
Calkins, who uses a wheelchair, had finished presenting testimony in which he, like other witnesses, suggested the cost is secondary to assuring the civil rights of the country’s 43 million disabled.
But Luken, chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee, questioned how Republican administrations can regularly reject high funding for Amtrak yet support a bill that requires the rail passenger carrier to make its trains and stations accessible.
″You are lecturing us about money, which we would want to provide, but the administration says it will veto the money if we provide the money,″ Luken said. The House, he said, will probably pass the bill ″along the lines of saying how do to it and then not pay for it.″
The House and Senate have passed separate bills giving Amtrak $615 million for fiscal 1990, with $85 million for capital improvements. The administration wants to eliminate subsidies for Amtrak, saying it serves less than half a percent of all intercity travel.
Amtrak chief W. Graham Claytor Jr. told the subcommittee on transportation and hazardous materials that it will have to spend $52 million over 20 years to modify stations under the act.
That includes costs to meet access requirements mandated by the overlapping Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Amtrak says that underfunding during the Reagan administration has hindered its ability to meet those requirements.