Hike gas tax by 15 cents a gallon: Rep. Larsen

The case for increasing the gas tax
The case for increasing the gas tax   

A nearly doubling of the federal gas tax is needed to fix America's crumbling roads, bridges and transit systems, Rep. Rick Larsen, Democrat of Washington, said Tuesday.

Larsen is cosponsoring a bill that would raise the tax by 15 cents a gallon over three years.

"We've been doing a little bit of fiddling while Rome has been burning, meaning our infrastructure in this country is falling part. We need to have a long-term plan to finance its rebuilding and the maintenance of it, as well," he said in an interview with CNBC's "Closing Bell."

The federal gas tax, which funds the Federal Highway Trust Fund, has remained at 18.4 cents a gallon since 1993. The fund provides money for infrastructure work and is set to expire on July 31.

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Larsen pointed out that if the tax grew by inflation since the last increase, it would be at 30 cents right now. The proposed increase would raise the tax to 33 cents per gallon, which would mean about $19 billion more annually over the life of the increase for infrastructure repair, he said.

He believes the improvements would help ensure America's economic competitiveness.

"If we are not helping our own economy move the freight and goods to the markets, into the ports around this country, we won't be taking advantage of trade policy."

Talks of a gas tax hike began heating up last year, when gasoline prices began to fall. Americans are now paying a national average of $2.77 a gallon, according to AAA.

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Larsen said that despite the higher tax, there is a payoff for drivers.

"We have to appreciate what the taxpayer's going through but what they are also going through right now is, on average, spending $515 a year per driver just for maintenance for their cars because of the poor infrastructure quality that we have in this country."

America has four million miles of highway, and 32 percent are in poor or mediocre condition, according to a 2013 American Society of Civil Engineers report.

—CNBC's Trent Gillies contributed to this report.