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Monday, January 24, 2022

San Diego County Seeks Alternatives to Mileage Tax

SAN DIEGO. Some board members of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) on December 3 are looking for alternatives – instead of charging county residents for every mile they travel – to fund the county’s regional transportation plan.

The road use tax proposal of four cents a mile and two half a regional sales tax proposed for 2022 and 2028 was conceived as a way to help fund SANDAG’s long-term regional plan.

This ambitious $ 160 billion 30-year plan could include free public transport and a $ 43 billion 200-mile regional rail network.

Some of the most influential members of the SANDAG board, which weighs the votes of the city’s population, said they were not happy with the details of the tax.

“At present, the charge for using local roads as a substitute for the gas tax remains highly speculative, with very few details on how this will work or be applied in a fair manner,” said Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespeare, chairman of the board of SANDAG. directors.

“I am concerned that road use charges could burden residents with large and unbearable increases in the costs of their basic transportation needs before significant improvements in public transport make transit a viable choice for most travel,” Blakespeare said.

The transportation plan will be presented to the board of directors for final approval on December 10, but due to a belated split by some board leaders, it remains unclear how the regional transportation agency will respond.

According to state law, a transportation plan must be passed by the end of the year and must demonstrate plans to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“I have long supported the SANDAG Regional Transportation Plan as it aligns with my vision of providing San Diegan with more environmentally friendly ways to travel around our region,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, vice chairman and most difficult member. weighted voting. “However, there is no need to include road usage fees and we will be asking SANDAG staff to find alternative funding sources.

“While I understand the principles behind road user charges, not enough has been done in our region to expand access to public transport,” Gloria said. “Residents need to have viable and affordable transportation alternatives other than a car for road tolls to be effective.”

Carl DeMayo, a San Diego city councilor turned conservative radio host, said Gloria and other Democratic board members were to blame. He also chairs the California Reform political action group, which often focuses on issues of importance to the state’s conservative movement.

“Gloria may say he will remove the mileage tax in the future, but he has proven time and time again that he is completely insecure and dishonest when it comes to raising taxes,” DeMayo said. “We have no doubt that he and his associates will introduce a mileage tax after the November 2022 elections.”

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SANDAG has received over 1,500 comments on the draft Regional Plan for 2021. Some were positive, but many criticized the agency’s proposed tax hike.

San Diego County Observer Jim Desmond said the proposal was aimed at “getting everyone to get on trolleybuses and buses,” by charging people who did not want to use their cars.

National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, second vice chairman of the board of SANDAG, said she was concerned about the impact of the proposed tax on the equality of workers’ communities.

“It is very important that we work on a plan that takes all funding options into account and is not a concern,” Sotelo-Solis said. “We need to capitalize on the ability to raise funding at the federal level, and ultimately we need to have tools in our toolbox that will reinforce and implement our statement of capital and core board values.”

California has tested about two cents per mile billing in pilot programs, but ran into a number of problems. The state was having difficulty reporting usage per mile. It is also unclear if miles should be counted out of state. It is not yet clear how SANDAG will be able to circumvent this problem, but the agency wants to wait for the completion of some public transport projects.

The proposed mileage tax is intended to complement and ultimately replace gasoline taxes, which have dropped significantly due to declining gas mileage and exponential growth in hybrid and electric vehicle owners in recent years.

Between 1993 and 2020, average fuel efficiency improved by about 26 percent, which means that drivers drive an average of 75 miles per tank, according to a 2020 report by the Institute for Tax and Economic Policy Research Center.

“Those 75 extra miles of driving result in wear and tear on national roads without requiring gas tax refunds to cover costs,” the report said.

SANDAG has calculated that the plan could raise more than $ 34 billion by 2050, but the agency’s chief economist, Ray Major, said the final figures will change when the volume is narrowed down to the proposal in 2030.

To learn more about the SANDAG regional plan, visit sdforward.com.

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