The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) set forth an ambitious agenda at the end of 2021, passing a $163 billion Regional Transportation Plan. The plan takes a large aim at expanding public transportation for San Diegans. There was just one problem: they couldn’t fund it. The plan was to implement the Mileage Tax in order to pay for the project, which meant a 4¢ tax for every mile driven by every San Diegan was to be imposed so that SANDAG could spend the money it wanted. After strong pushback, the tax was shelved temporarily. Democrats who voted for the plan claimed that they would report back in 6 months with a new plan for the funding. It’s now been 9 months, and the Mileage Tax is still the only solution SANDAG has.
Republican County Supervisor Jim Desmond remains a strong opponent of the tax and stated what SANDAG’s intentions are in a recent interview. Desmond strongly believes that due to a lack of any real solution to fund the project, the Mileage Tax will return. The money taken from the taxes won’t be used on roads or any road improvement but will continually be used to fund SANDAG’s plans to remove single occupancy vehicles in favor of their green initiatives. Roads remain in terrible condition, and traffic remains high despite residents paying the highest in the nation already in taxes for road maintenance. Desmond states that this is because SANDAG does not prioritize roads, instead focusing on mass transit and buses, and cites it as one of the reasons people like Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg were praising the benefits of high gas prices.
According to Desmond, it is unlikely that SANDAG will find its alternate funds and will rather reintroduce the tax to the public. Further, this issue doesn’t need to be voted on by the public. SANDAG has the power to institute the tax without public consent should it not be able to find the source for the money it desperately wants. The only reason it stopped initially was due to 1,500 critical comments on the plan submitted to SANDAG, but that may not be enough to stop it in the future. Even San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria has signaled future support for the tax stating, “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.”
Photo Cred: Vito Di Stefano/ Voice of San Diego