Washington Highway Department uses appropriation balances for relief work on state highways from winter 1931 through spring 1932.

  • By Paula Becker
  • Posted 1/21/2005
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 7221

From winter 1931 through spring 1932, the Washington Highway Department uses highway appropriations balances (remaining money in a variety of highway appropriations) to provide manual labor jobs for the state's unemployed. The work includes erecting guardrails, improving drainage, widening shoulders, and other safety improvements that can be done by hand.

During this period, regular maintenance employees and mechanics were on a five-day workweek, and the special relief-work maintenance crews worked a 30-hour week, paid on a minimum wage scale. "These measures are increasing employment materially" (Fourteenth Biennial Report, 3).

The appropriations came from the state's motor vehicle fund. This fund consisted of motor vehicle license fees and receipts from a four-cent gas tax. (The actual gas tax at the time was five cents, with one cent going into a lateral highway fund to build county lateral highways -- the so-called farm-to-market roads.)

Part of this money was from a federal aid allocation of $1,270,933 approved by Congress on December 20, 1930. These funds were a specific measure to relieve unemployment. The emergency funds were to be repaid to the federal government over the next five federal aid allotments by reducing each of those allotments by one-fifth of the emergency aid total.


Fourteenth Biennial Report of the Director of Highways for the Period Oct. 1, 1930 to Sept. 30, 1932 (carbon copy, University of Washington Suzzallo Library Folio collection, dated December 22, 1932).

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