Begeman named STB Acting Chairman

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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U.S. Surface Transportation Board Member Ann Begeman on Jan. 25 was named Acting Chairman by President Donald J. Trump. Begeman, a Republican, is currently serving a second, five-year term as an STB Member following her recent nomination by President Barack Obama on Dec. 7, 2016, and her unanimous confirmation by the U.S. Senate on Dec. 9, 2016.

Begeman first joined the Board on May 2, 2011. Her current term expires Dec. 31, 2020. Prior to her 2011 appointment, she held Senate staff positions on Capitol Hill for more than 20 years, “playing a key role in the crafting of major transportation legislation, including the ICC Termination Act, which created the STB,” the Board said in announcing her appointment. Begeman served as the Republican Staff Director for the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation under former U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) and as the Committee’s Deputy Staff Director and Transportation Policy Advisor under Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). She has also served as Legislative Director and Acting Chief of Staff for McCain and as a Legislative Assistant for former Senator Larry Pressler. Begeman has also worked in the private sector, serving as a benefits specialist for First American Bankshares, Inc. A native of Humboldt, S.D., she earned a B.S. in business administration from the University of South Dakota.

Railway Age Capitol Hill Contributing Editor Frank N. Wilner, who writes on Washington issues, says, “Ms. Begeman does not wish to be permanent chairman and will hold the ‘acting’ title until President Trump names as permanent chairman one of two Republicans still to be nominated and Senate-confirmed to two vacancies created by the 2015 Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act.

“Those seats are not expected to be filled until after Congress agrees on a long-overdue Fiscal Year 2017 budget, which may not occur before April. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) is said to support about a $5 million STB budget increase from the current $32 million annually, to cover the costs of the two new Board members, their administrative assistants and confidential advisers, and to augment professional staff to handle an increased workload.

“Under Democratic Chairman Dan Elliott, the STB in February 2016 submitted a FY 2017 budget request seeking a $10 million annual increase, which drew a sharp dissent from Begeman at the time. She termed the request for a 31% budget boost ‘a wish-list budgeting approach’ and ‘mind-blowing’ in some respects. ‘The majority [referring to Elliott and his fellow Democrat Deb Miller] needs to come to grips with fiscal reality instead of further risking the Board’s credibility,’ she said in her dissent. The STB’s currently authorized head count is 150, while the Elliott FY 2017 budget request seeks 33 new positions. Given that Begeman is now in charge, it is highly unlikely that anything near the Elliott-authored budget request will be granted by a Republican-controlled Congress sharing her budget-hawk views. Begeman will draft the FY 2018 STB budget request.”

For further insight, see Wilner’s column, “STB’s Begeman: Head, heart in conflict.”




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