A bio diesel bus of North Central Montana Transit that serves rural Hill and Blaine counties.

Members of the National Rural Assembly’s Transportation Policy Group are concerned that proposed changes in the way the nation funds transit programs will hurt rural America.

The House Ways and Means Committee could vote Friday (February 3, 2012) to bar transit programs from receiving 20 percent of the federal motor fuels tax from the Highway Trust Fund. The move would leave transit funding levels in doubt and reverse a system that has been in place since Ronald Reagan was president.

“Rural communities rely on predictable funding levels to plan and deliver transit services,” said Kathleen Moxon, director of Redwood Coast Rural Action and chairperson of the Rural Transportation Policy Group.

“Changing the source of public transportation funding to a new and uncertain revenue stream will subject public transit programs to the vagaries of political whim on an annual basis,” Moxon said.

Rural America has approximately 1,200 public transit systems, according to the Economic Research Service of USDA.

Billy Altom, executive director of Association of Programs for Independent Living (APRIL) and a member of the Rural Transportation Policy Group, said the proposed funding change would exacerbate funding disparities between rural and urban transit programs.

“This approach — submitting the entire transit account to whims of the appropriations process and ‘payfors’ – will create tensions between urban and rural transit,” he said. “That is not good for rural or metropolitan communities, and it’s not good for our national economy.”

The Rural Transportation Policy Group is part of the National Rural Assembly, a coalition of approximately 450 organizations across the country working together on a common rural policy framework.

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