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Smith out as Amtrak chairman

By By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
Aug. 1, 2003
Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith's term as Amtrak chairman has ended and he will likely not be reappointed to the governing body of the nation's passenger rail service.
U.S. Sen. Trent Lott said Thursday he "doubts" Smith will be reappointed to the board; his five-year term expired June 26. Smith, appointed by President Bill Clinton, had also served as Amtrak's chairman for the past year.
Lott said the Bush administration's policy has been not to reappoint the same people who were named to boards and commissions during the Clinton administration, regardless of political party affiliation.
Smith could not be reached for comment. But, Maureen Lofton, Meridian's assistant for governmental affairs, said Smith knew his five-year appointment had ended.
Lott made his comments a day after he and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, introduced a six-year, $60 billion plan in Congress to fund Amtrak. Their bill runs counter to a Bush administration proposal that would reduce federal support for passenger rail service. They would give the chronically-weak Amtrak which has received more than $26 billion since its inception the $2 billion in annual operating subsidies it has requested.
Their plan also calls for issuing $48 billion in bonds to raise money for repairs and track construction.
With Amtrak in a tight financial position, Lott said he would like to see Smith be reappointed and continue to help promote national passenger rail service.

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