file photo by Boyd Loving
By Keith Laing – 07/08/15 12:49 PM EDT
Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) is co-sponsoring a bill to increase the federal gas tax to help pay for transportation projects across the nation.
The measure, which was originally sponsored by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), would increase the gas tax by 15 cents over the next three years, matching a proposal that was included in the 2011 Simpson-Bowles budget reform proposal.
Larsen said Wednesday that he is becoming the 35th co-sponsor of the measure because the gas tax, which helps pay for the nation’s infrastructure projects, has not been increased since 1993.
“When I talked with local transportation leaders, the message I got was that Congress needs to act quickly,” he said in a statement about the proposed legislation, which is known as the Update, Promote and Develop America’s Transportation Essentials (UPDATE) Act.
“Federal funds make up about a quarter of Washington state’s transportation budget each year,” Larsen continued. “We cannot have a big league economy with little league infrastructure. Raising the gas tax for the first time in more than 20 years will mean states and cities can count on funds to upgrade aging bridges, make rail crossings safer and expand transit options to reduce traffic congestion.”
The new support for the legislation to increase the gas tax comes as lawmakers are searching for money to pay for an extension of federal infrastructure funding that is currently set to expire on July 31.
Congress has been grappling since 2005 with a transportation funding shortfall that is estimated to be about $16 billion per year, and they have not passed a transportation bill that lasts longer than two years in that span.
The 18.4 cent-per-gallon federal gas tax has been the main source of transportation funding for decades, but it has not been increased since 1993, and more fuel-efficient cars have sapped its buying power.