SANDAG says money from California gas tax not enough for local projects

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — The regional transportation agency, SANDAG, has lost its credibility with the public, resulting from over-promising and under-delivering on transit and road projects.

And now we learn the agency’s staff is talking about asking the voters for future tax increases to fill the gap.

Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey is raising the issue, saying the actual costs for projects were 50 percent higher than what the voters were promised.

The proposed increases would be in addition to the 12-cent increase in the gas tax by the state, which takes effect 15 days from now.

“The only way to fill that gap would be the equivalent of two additional tax increases, the equivalent of 24 cents per gallon,” Bailey said Monday on Good Morning San Diego.

In 1988, the voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase, and when revenues can in 50 percent lower than promised, the agency went back to the voters in 2004 and got the tax extended for another 40 years.

The over-promising and under-performing became a forecasting scandal uncovered by the Voice of San Diego.

Mayor Bailey laid the blame on the SANDAG board of directors.

“SANDAG has been a staff-driven organization and the board hasn’t really been providing the leadership it needs too,” Bailey said. “We have to be honest with the public, and if we’re going to be honest with the public these projects that SANDAG has promised in the past simply can’t be filled with the revenue SANDAG has coming in.”

The mayor said the board has a track record of simply rubber-stamping what its staff proposes.

The scandal forced the board to pressure Executive Director Gary Gallegos to step down, which he did. But Mayor Bailey says this goes well beyond Gallegos.

“It goes the board, it needs to provide more leadership, we need to hold the staff accountable,” Bailey said. They can’t be rubber stamping everything staff puts in front of us.”

They Mayor says we’re on the cusp of a transportation revolution, with alternative modes of travel like driverless cars and ride-sharing services, which are trending upward.

“Over the last two years we’ve seen the ridership for MTS decrease by about 7 and a half million riders,” Bailey said. “That’s about 15 percent.

“All of the projects that are 10, 20, 30 years in the making —we really need to reevaluate them to how they fit in the future of transportation.”

Beyond that, he says what SANDAG needs is a culture and political change.

“I think we need to start prioritizing efficiency over political correctness.”

SANDAG referred us to board chair Ron Roberts for a response. 

Categories: Local San Diego News