1982 White House Gas Tax Decision Memoranda

1982 White House Gas Tax Decision Memoranda

June 09, 2015  | ENO CENTER FOR TRANSPORTATION

June 9, 2015

This week’s ETW Document of the Week is part of the supporting documents released alongside Eno’s report issued two weeks ago on the 1982 gas tax increase, Reagan Devolution. It consists of three short, related memoranda combined into one PDF file:

  • The two-page “decision memo” sent by Transportation Secretary Drew Lewis to President Reagan on November 22, 1982 in advance of the November 23 Cabinet meeting at which President Reagan was to make a final decision on Lewis’s proposed 5 cent gas tax increase. The memo outlines the program, a brief justification, and the timing of proposed action.
  • A four-page memo from OMB Director Dave Stockman sent later on November 22 attempting to refute specific statements made in Lewis’s decision memo and suggesting alternatives.
  • A three-page memo from Secretary Lewis sent early in the morning of November 23 refuting some of the allegations on Stockman’s memo.

The memos exemplify the rich (and ongoing) tradition of disagreements between OMB and DOT on the proper purposes and functioning of the Highway Trust Fund.

Of particular interest are the handwritten notes on the original documents at the Reagan Library. In particular, notes in the upper right corner of the last two memos by Cabinet Secretary Craig Fuller indicate that the White House staff did not forward the latter two memos to the President or the Cabinet, perhaps knowing that Reagan had already made up his mind to support Lewis’s gas tax proposal and that it would not be helpful for OMB to reopen the issue at the last minute.

And since the first memo is a scan of the original document, you can also see President Reagan’s handwritten initials next to the word “Approve.”

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