1932 Treasury Letter Recommending First Gasoline Tax

This is a letter marked “CONFIDENTIAL” from Treasury Secretary Ogden L. Mills to Acting House Ways and Means chairman Charles L. Crisp dated February 16, 1932 recommending that Congress enact a new excise tax on gasoline to help eliminate the projected federal deficit.

The letter was associated with updated deficit estimates that would have required an extra $337 million in taxes in order to get the budget to a state of balance. The letter proposed to get that $337 million as follows:

  • Increase of 1/2 of 1 percent in the corporate tax rate – $17 million
  • Increase in the income surtax rates for wealthy individuals – $50 million
  • A tax of 1 cent per gallon on gasoline – $165 million
  • A 7 percent tax on domestic consumption of electricity and natural gas – $94 million
  • An additional cent on capital stock sales and transfers – $11 million

Although the letter from the Treasury Secretary to the Acting Ways and Means chairman was marked “confidential,” its contents made it into the New York Times the following day.

Source: Records of the United States Senate, Committee on Finance, 72nd Congress, Box 67, Folder 72A-F9, National Archives.

Sept. 1978 Letter to US House Members from Transportation Stakeholders

This is a September 15, 1978 letter from various surface transportation stakeholder groups to all members of the US House of Representatives opposing an amendment to the highway bill to be offered by Budget Committee chairman Bob Giamo (D-CT) that would have reduced annual Highway Trust Fund authorization levels to levels that could be indefinitely supported by existing tax rates without extensive balance drawdowns.

Sept. 1978 “Dear Colleague” Letter from House Public Works Against Giamo Amendment

This is a “Dear Colleague” letter to House members sent by members of the Public Works and Transportation Committee on September 19, 1978 in opposition to an amendment by Budget chairman Bob Giamo (D-CT) that would have reduced annual highway funding levels from the Highway Trust Fund to the levels that could be indefinitely sustained by existing tax revenues without extensive drawdown of balances.

1978 Conable-Gibbons Amendment to the Highway Bill

This PDF is a series of documents relating to a proposed amendment in the House Ways and Means Committee to the revenue title of the highway bill in 1978. Drafted (at the Department of Transportation’s request) by Reps. Barber Conable (R-NY) and Sam Gibbons (D-FL), the amendment would have put the Highway Trust Fund on a form of “accrual accounting” and ensured that each year’s new funding authorizations were reduced to that upcoming year’s estimated excise tax revenues.

The file includes:

  • The undated original text of the Conable-Gibbons amendment from spring 1978.
  • Projected Highway Trust Fund cash flow under the highway bill (H.R. 11733) as reported by the House Public Works and Transportation Committee.
  • A May 16, 1978 version of the Conable-Gibbons amendment, with Ways and Means staff analysis.
  • A May 17, 1978 letter from Transportation Secretary Adams, Treasury Secretary Blumenthal, and OMB Director McIntyre to Ways and Means chairman Ullman supporting Conable-Gibbons.
  • A May 19, 1978 letter from Public Works and Transportation chairman Johnson and ranking minority member Harsha opposing Conable-Gibbons.
  • The May 31, 1978 final version of the Conable-Gibbons amendment, with Ways and Means staff analysis.
  • A May 31, 1978 letter from Public Works chairman Johnson to Ways and Means chairman Ullman again opposing Conable-Gibbons.
  • A June 22, 1978 letter from Johnson, Harsha, Highways Subcommittee chairman Howard and ranking minority member Shuster to Ullman opposing Conable-Gibbons and including several pages of arguments against the amendment.
  • A July 12, 178 letter from Howard to Ullman explaining how he was going to offer an amendment reducing funding in H.R. 11733 and providing Public Works staff re-estimates of future Trust Fund cash flow under the amended bill.
  • Congressional Budget Office projected Trust Fund cash flow under Howard’s amendment.
  • Congressional Budget Office projected Trust Fund cash flow under the Conable-Gibbons amendment.
  • A July 31, 1978 letter from OMB Director McIntyre to Gibbons reiterating support for the Conable-Gibbons amendment.

Readers are encouraged to download the file and open it in a PDF reader so they can use the bookmark tab to move between documents.

Reproduced from the files of the Committee on Ways and Means and the Committee on Public Works and Transportation at the National Archives.

1958 FAA Act – White House Enrolled Bill File

This is the enrolled bill file prepared by the Bureau of the Budget on the Federal Aviation Act of 1958. The file contains a summary of the bill prepared by BoB and letters from all relevant federal agencies expressing their opinions on whether or not President Eisenhower should sign the bill into law. He did sign it into law, on August 23, 1958, creating an independent Federal Aviation Agency.


Petroleum Product Tax Options for World War II

This is a February 1942 analysis by the Treasury Department’s Office of Tax Analysis of the pros and cons of a variety of potential excise tax increases on gasoline, fuel oil, lubricating oil, and other petroleum products. The analysis weighs the need for extra federal revenue to fight the war against the need to conserve petroleum, rubber, and other war materiel and how taxes dovetailed with the rationing of those products.

The Roosevelt Administration eventually recommended that Congress double the gasoline tax, from 1.5 cents per gallon to 3.0 cents per gallon, but Congress rejected that request (however, Congress did increase the lubricating oil tax).

Source: National Archives, College Park.

1933 Letter Advocating a Federal Mandate for Ethanol Content in Gasoline

This is a May 16, 1933 letter to the U.S. Treasury Secretary from the head of the Farm Products Chemical Company of America (and its lawyers/lobbyists) advocating federal legislation to levy an additional surtax on gasoline unless that gasoline includes a minimum percentage of ethanol that would quickly rise to 10 percent of the total.

Congress did not enact tax-related legislation for ethanol use until the Energy Tax Act of 1978, which created a federal tax credit for gasoline blended with ethanol. The cost of this tax credit was originally borne by the Highway Trust Fund, but the burden was switched to the general fund in 2004. The ethanol tax credit was allowed to expire in 2012, but only after Congress had enacted the Renewable Fuels Standard, which mandates that a certain minimum number of gallons of ethanol be blended into U.S. gasoline each year, as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

1971 Nixon Proposal to Create a Department of Community Development

This is the full justification document for President Nixon’s 1971 proposal to create a new Cabinet-level Department of Community Development which would have contained all of the previous Department of Housing and Urban Development, plus the Federal Highway Administration, the Urban Mass Transit Administration, the highway safety grant program of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the rural development programs of the Agriculture Department, and sundry other programs and agencies.

September 1968 DOT-HUD Memorandum of Understanding

This is the text of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by Transportation Secretary Alan Boyd and HUD Secretary Robert Weaver on September 9 and 10, 1968 (respectively) and announced by DOT in a September 13 press release.

The MOU outlined the new cooperative relationship between DOT and HUD on urban transportation planning and project approvals necessitated by the transfer of the federal mass transit program from HUD to DOT earlier that year pursuant to Reorganization Plan No. 2 of 1968.

April 1968 House Hearings on Moving Mass Transit from HUD to DOT

This is a copy of the printed hearings held by a subcommittee of the House Government Operations Committee on April 22, 1968. The subject was Reorganization Plan No. 2 of 1968, which proposed to move responsibility for federal mass transit activities from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Department of Transportation.

Witnesses include Deputy Director of the Bureau of the Budget Phillip Hughes, Secretary of Transportation Alan Boyd, and Under Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Robert Wood.


January 1966 Proposed Division of Urban Transportation Responsibilities

This is a January 28, 1966 memo from Cecil Mackey of the Commerce Department to Alan Boyd, Under Secretary of Commerce for Transportation, transmitting the latest for how the White House task force on creating DOT was thinking of handling urban transportation issues. Mackey encloses a short issue paper from Charles Zwick of the Budget Bureau with a proposed division of responsibilities between HUD and the proposed new DOT, based on a high-level White House meeting on the issue that had taken place on January 25.

However, Zwick  later remembered in an April 1969 oral history interview that: “In fact we had a meeting in Califano’s office one night I remember very clearly, with Califano, Schultze., Weaver, Boyd and myself, in which I outlined a solution which I insist to this day that they all agreed to. We then had a subsequent meeting over in the Bureau, an expanded meeting in which Schultze was there, Boyd was there, Lee White came over–he was still in the White House at that point and interested in transportation matters. When I outlined the solution I had evolved, all of them disowned it–Boyd, Schultze–so I gave up.”

Moving Mass Transit from DOT to HUD – The Documentary Record

This is a PDF compilation of 55 original documents relating to the decision in 1968 to move federal responsibility for urban mass transportation from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Department of Transportation. The original documents are from the National Archives and the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library.

This is a very large PDF file (76 MB). We recommend you download it to your computer (it may take a little time to download) and open it in a PDF reader, not your web browser. You can skip to an individual document by clicking on its name in the (chronological) table of contents or else by using the bookmark sidebar in the PDF reader.

March 1963 Senate Vote Count on Mass Transit Bill

This is an unofficial estimate of Senate support for Senator Harrison Williams’ (D-NJ) mass transit bill, dated March 6, 1963, taken by “a hastily convened meeting, including municipal people, [the American Transit Association], railroad, county, suppliers…” It was sent from Williams’ staffer Ardee Ames to White House Senate liaison Mike Manatos.

Instead of “yes” or “no,” the check sheet was filled out in terms of “R” (right) or “W” (wrong) from Williams’ perspective. The vote count shows 45 solid and 13 leaning Williams’ way in favor of final passage of the mass transit bill and also showed 38 solid and 16 leaning towards Williams’ position on whether or not the bill should make its funding guaranteed contract authority (which Williams favored) instead of leaving it up to future appropriations.

(The final bill passed by the Senate on April 4, did not have contract authority but the final passage vote was 52 to 41. Senators that the staff count had down as a lean or hard “yes” who wound up voting “no” were Boggs (R-DE), Bayh (D-IN), Cooper (R-KY), Muskie (D-ME), McIntyre (D-NH), Edmondson (D-OK) and McGee (D-WY). Senators who were down as “no” on the staff count but wound up voting for the bill were Russell (D-GA) and Andersen (D-NM).

From the folder “Transportation” in Box 10 of the Office Files of Mike Manatos in the Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library.

March 1963 White House Vote Count on Mass Transit Bill in Senate Banking Committee

This is a memo from White House staffer Mike Manatos (their legislative affairs contact for Senate offices) to his boss Larry O’Brien (the overall head of legislative affairs) dated March 13, 1963 regarding the pending mass transit bill. The memo contains an estimated vote count in the Senate Banking Committee and discussion of how to keep Commerce Committee chairman Warren Magnuson (D-WA) on board.

From the “Mass Transit” folder in Box 9-1 of the Office Files of Mike Manatos collection in the Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library.

December 1962 Mass Transit Lobbying Strategy Conference

These are the minutes of a strategy meeting held December 13, 1962 among a variety of mass transit interest groups and legislative and Administration representatives as to how legislation for a permanent mass transit subsidy program could be pushed through the upcoming 88th Congress.

Williams Mass Transit Bill – 1960 (S. 3278, 86th Congress)

Text of the bill S. 3278 of the 86th Congress, introduced on March 24, 1960 by Sen. Harrison Williams (D-NJ) and other cosponsors. This would be the first bill providing federal aid for urban mass transit to pass either chamber of Congress.

Mass Transit Financing Corporation Act – 1960 Version

This is the bill H.R. 10808 of the 86th Congress, one of a series of identical bills introduced in March 1960 based on draft legislation proposed by the American Municipal Association, which was in turn largely based on the 1958 proposal from Rep. William Green, Jr. It creates a Mass Transit Financing Corporation in the Department of Commerce to give aid to municipalities for the purchase of mass transit or commuter rail equipment.

1958 Mass Transit Financing Corporation Act

This is the text of the bill H.R. 11816 of the 85th Congress, introduced in the House of Representatives on April 1, 1958 by Rep. William Green, Jr. (D-PA). This may have been the first bill for federal financial assistance for mass transit. It would have created a Mass Transit Financing Corporation within the Commerce Department, authorized the corporation issue up to $500 million in capital stock and use the proceeds:

to purchase the securities and obligations of, or to make loans (1) to public and private transit companies, and railroads providing commuter service, in standard metropolitan areas as defined by the Federal Committee on Standard Metropolitan Areas, to finance the purchase of new equipment, other than buses, for the purpose of improving transit or commuter service or extending such service to new areas within any such standard metropolitan area, and (2) to municipalities to finance the purchase of such equipment for the purpose of making such equipment available by lease or otherwise to any such transit company or railroad.

1960 Bureau of the Budget Memo on American Municipal Association Commuter Rail Relief Bill

This is an internal memo from the White House Bureau of the Budget dated March 11, 1960 summarizing legislation introduced in the House of Representatives (as H.R. 10808, 10843, 10852, 10863, and 10885) at the request of the American Municipal Association (the forerunner of today’s National League of Cities).

The bill would establish a new government corporation in the Department of Commerce. This corporation could purchase obligations of or make 50-year loans at low interest rates to State and local public agencies, including interstate agencies, to acquire, maintain or improve equipment or facilities for mass transit services (excluding highways). The corporation would be financed by selling $500 million in stock to the Treasury Department and by borrowing another $500 million, either privately or from the Treasury.

The memo, requested by Sen. Prescott Bush (R-CT), opposed the legislation, concluding that:

If Federal aid is believed necessary, it should be limited to metropolitan areas with well considered transportation plans which are coordinated with comprehensive land use plans and which are administered by public agencies with area-wide responsibilities for all types of transportation and with adequate local financial support; Federal aid for such plans can be obtained from the present HHFA urban planning grant program. The Federal government should avoid new subsidies, including loans with subsidized interest rates, but might provide more latitude in the use of existing urban highway grants as an aid to meeting mass transportation needs. Properly organized and supported local agencies can reasonably be expected to borrow the necessary funds privately, but, if necessary, modifications should be considered in the present ICC railroad loan guarantee program or in the public facility loan program at HHFA.

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