Strong opposition to SANDAG’s proposed mileage tax forcing Democrats to withdrawal support
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) -After enormous push back from San Diego County residents, several members of the San Diego Association of Governments’ (SANDAG) board of directors said Friday they would ask SANDAG staff to provide alternatives to fund the county’s regional transportation plan which do not rely on charging county residents for every mile they drive.
The four-cents-per-mile road usage tax proposal — and two half-cent regional sales taxes proposed for 2022 and 2028 — was envisioned as a way to help fund SANDAG’s long-term regional plan, an ambitious 30-year, $160 billion proposal which could include no-cost public transit and a 200-mile, $43 billion regional rail network.
Some of the most powerful members of the SANDAG board — which weighs votes by a city’s population — said they were uncomfortable with the details of such a tax.
“At this time, the local road usage charge as a replacement for the gas tax remains highly speculative, with very few details available about how it would work or be applied in a fair way,” said Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear, chair of SANDAG’s Board of Directors. “I am concerned that the road usage charge could saddle residents with large and unsustainable cost increases for their basic transportation needs before substantial improvements in public transit have made transit a viable choice for most trips.”
The transportation plan is going before the board for final approval on Dec. 10, but the late split from some of the board’s leadership leaves it unclear how the regional transportation agency will respond. According to state law, the transportation plan needs to be adopted by year’s end and must demonstrate plans to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“I have long supported SANDAG’s Regional Transportation Plan, as it aligns with my vision of giving San Diegans more sustainable ways to get around our region,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, vice chair of the board and the member with the most heavily-weighted vote. “However, the inclusion of a road usage charge is unnecessary, and we will be asking SANDAG staff to find alternative funding sources.
“While I understand the principles behind a road usage charge, our region has not done nearly enough to expand access to public transit,” he said. “Residents must have feasible and accessible transportation alternatives other than a car for a road usage charge to be effective.”
Carl DeMaio called out Gloria for his statement which signaled future support for a mileage tax on San Diegans.
SANDAG received more than 1,500 comments on the draft 2021 Regional Plan. The overwhelming majority of which were critical of the agency’s proposed tax increases.
San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond said the proposal was intended to “force everyone on to trolleys and buses” by pricing people out of their cars.
National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, second vice chair of SANDAG’s board, said she was concerned with the proposed tax’s impact on equity for working-class communities.
“It is essential that we work to have a plan that takes all funding options into account and doesn’t cause concern,” she said. “We need to capitalize on the opportunity for leveraging federal-level funding, and at the end of the day, we must have tools in the toolbox that strengthen and implement our equity statement and board core values.”
California has been testing charging around 2 cents per mile in pilot programs, but has run into several issues. The state has experienced difficulty in how to report the by-mile-usage and if miles should count when out of state. It is unclear how SANDAG would circumvent that issue, but the agency does claim to want to wait until some mass transit projects are completed.
The proposed mileage tax is intended to supplement and eventually replace gas taxes, which have dropped considerably as gas mileage has increased and hybrid and electric cars ownership has grown exponentially in recent years.
San Diegans and mainly Republican officials in opposition to the plan simply believe raising taxes is the last thing we should be doing to San Diego County residents.
More about SANDAG’s regional plan can be found at sdforward.com.
RELATED STORY: SANDAG officials respond to misconceptions about the mileage tax
Chairman of Reform California, Carl DeMaio, is urging San Diegans not to trust Todd Gloria’s opposition to the proposed mileage tax. DeMaio released a statement calling out Gloria for only suggesting to drop the mileage tax idea “for now,” and coming back to say he will still vote for the mileage tax.
DeMaio’s complete statement about the controversy is below:
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria (D) today released a carefully worded statement saying he wants to drop the idea of a Mileage Tax “for now” but today announced he will STILL VOTE FOR the Mileage Tax included in the SANDAG Regional Transportation Plan next week. Gloria claims he will “remove” the Mileage Tax later on.
In response, Carl DeMaio, Chairman of Reform California and leader of the campaign opposing the Mileage Tax proposal offers the following statement:
“When it comes to costly tax hikes, we don’t trust Todd Gloria for a second. Todd Gloria says he doesn’t want a Mileage Tax right now, but he still intends to vote for the SANDAG plan that includes a Mileage Tax! Todd Gloria is simply playing political games to buy some time because he is still backing a massive sales tax hike being put on the November election.
Gloria can say he will remove the Mileage Tax at a future date, but he has shown time and time again to be completely untrustworthy and dishonest when it comes to tax hikes. We have no doubt he and his cohorts will impose a Mileage Tax after the November 2022 election.
San Diego drivers will not be safe from a costly Mileage Tax until we replace Todd Gloria and other SANDAG board members with new leaders who will oppose all tax hikes and force SANDAG to fulfill its promises made to taxpayers to fix our roads.”
DeMaio encourages voters to join the Reform California campaign opposing the Mileage Tax by signing up at www.StopTheMileageTax.org