1982 Scorecard Vote
The vote is on the Tsongas (D-MA) amendment to the Transportation Assistance Act (H.R. 6211), better known as the gas tax bill. The amendment would have transferred $16 billion away from new Interstate highway construction and spent it instead on repair of existing highways and bridges. The only new Interstates affected by the amendment were those that the U.S. Department of Transportation said were not "essential to the completion of an interconnected Interstate highway system." Most of these are proposed urban commuter routes which are strongly opposed by local environmentalists, such as Westway in New York City. These commuter highways increase air pollution and energy consumption, and in some cases destroy important wildlife habitat.
These proposed Interstates also compete for funding with rail and mass transit systems which are much better for the environment. The law allows states to transfer their Interstate highway construction authorizations for alternative mass transit projects. But this bill discouraged that by providing massive new guaranteed funding for Interstate construction which was not automatically available for alternative projects.
The public was systematically misled by the White House and other proponents of the nickel a gallon gasoline tax into believing that 4 cents of the tax would go to much needed road repairs, while 1 cent would go to public transit. In reality, at least 40% of the money in the bill would go for new highway construction. Furthermore, in his fiscal 1984 budget proposals, President Reagan went back on his promise to support and additional $1.1 billion for mass transit from the gasoline tax, scaling this figure back to a piddling $30 million. Tsongas amendment defeated 17-74; December 16, 1982. YES is the pro-environmental vote. The gasoline tax bill became law.