Congress should raise gas tax: Sen. Corker

Bridge collapse on I-5 near Mount Vernon, Wash., May 23, 2013
Fight to fund infrastructure: Corker   

It's time for Congress to hike the federal gas tax and actually solve a fiscal problem instead of "kicking the can down the road," Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told CNBC on Monday.

The tax, or user fee, funds infrastructure repairs and improvements and hasn't been raised since 1993. Instead, Congress has been dipping into the general treasury to keep the dwindling Highway Trust Fund solvent.

"What Congress has done five times since 2008 is literally generational theft, just stealing from future generations out of the general funds to pay for infrastructure because Congress is going to fund infrastructure but not in the appropriate way," Corker said in an interview with "Closing Bell."

Sen. Bob Corker
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Sen. Bob Corker

Corker, along with Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., have proposed a gas tax increase of 6 cents a gallon each year for two years, ultimately raising it by 12 cents. It is currently 18.4 cents per gallon, and the diesel tax is 24.4 cents per gallon.

The existing highway legislation expires in May, and Corker said there is a $100 billion shortfall in the fund over the next 10 years. He said his proposal would solve the problem for the "long, long term."

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However, Corker isn't just proposing a gas tax hike. He'd like to cut the federal income tax to balance it out.

"You could lower the marginal rate — the 10 percent marginal rate — from 10 to 8.6 percent on all Americans paying income taxes and it would be revenue neutral and it would be also be very pro-growth," he explained.

That said, the senator is open to offsetting the increased gas tax in other ways, but noted there has to be some type of an offset for it to have any hopes of passing the Republican-controlled Congress.

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As prices at the pump have been falling, the call for a gas tax hike has been gaining momentum. On Monday, the national average for a gallon of gas fell to $2.20, the lowest average since May 2009, according to AAA.

Over the weekend, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., told "Fox News Sunday" that raising the federal gas tax is among the options under consideration to replenish the Highway Trust Fund. Thune is the incoming chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

"Hopefully this is something again over the next several months, especially with energy prices being where they are, that can gain some momentum and show that Congress can go from A to B and can solve a problem with a user fee, which by the way is the most conservative way in the world to generate revenues," Corker said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.