Seattle

Reagan Devolution: The Real Story of the 1982 Gas Tax Increase

The Highway Revenue Act of 1982 is now remembered as a triumph of bipartisanship – a Republican President who had recently passed the largest tax cuts in living memory joined with a Democratic House of Representatives and a Republican Senate to more than double (from 4 cents per gallon to 9 cents per gallon) federal motor fuels taxes and to use that money to provide large increases in federal spending on highways and bridges and, for the first time, to provide a permanent federal role in financing urban mass transit. As the legend goes, people of goodwill in both political parties saw a great national need and came together to find a politically difficult but common-sense solution. The reality is a bit messier.