President Reagan signs the 5-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax and highway jobs bill today (Jan. 6) in an East Room ceremony. The legislation, entitled the Surface Transportation Act of 1982, is a four-year authorization for highway construction, safety, and transportation. Sponsors said the bill will create 320,000 new jobs, most of them for skilled construction workers.
Effective April 1, it will raise the federal tax on gasoline and diesel and other fuels by a nickel to 9 cents a gallon, and raise about $5.5 billion a year. Four cents of the new levy will go for work on highways and bridges. The rest will be spent on mass transit.
Through 1992 the bill will put a 4-cent-a-gallon tax on gasohol, which is now tax-free. All buses and educational, farming, and government vehicles will be exempted from the tax, which has not been raised in 23 years. The administration has projected the higher tax will cost the average motorist $30 a year.
The bill will also:
* Maintain the current law requiring that 51 percent of the steel and cement used in federally financed projects must be American-made, unless the price of the foreign material is 25 percent less than the domestic product.
* Increase unemployment compensation for up to six weeks for those who have exhausted their benefits.
* Extend the Davis-Bacon Act's provisions for repair and reconstruction projects, calling for payment of the prevailing, generally union-scale wage on federal projects.
* Guarantee that a state gets back at least 85 percent of the money it contributes in highway user fees.