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SANDAG Board to Again Discuss Controversial 'Mileage Tax' in Regional Plan

SAN DIEGO - Several members of the San Diego Association of Governments' Board of Directors will today attempt to eliminate a controversial Regional Road User Charge -- sometimes referred to as a mileage tax -- from SANDAG's 2025 Regional Plan.

San Marcos Mayor Rebecca Jones is leading the charge to excise the tax, and will lead a protest outside SANDAG's office Friday morning before the board is scheduled to meet at 8:30 a.m.

``Despite years of political rhetoric suggesting the removal of this tax from the Regional Transportation Plan, the mileage tax remains a part of SANDAG's strategic blueprint,'' she wrote in a statement. ``In anticipation of this pivotal meeting, SANDAG Board members are taking a firm stand, demanding the definitive removal of this tax from future plans.''

In December 2021, SANDAG approved the 2021 Regional Transportation Plan without the mileage tax, leaving some doubts as to how the agency would fund the $165 billion plan.

A four-cents-per-mile road usage tax proposal and two half-cent regional sales taxes proposed for 2022 and 2028 were some of the key funding strategies SANDAG leadership proposed. SANDAG estimated the road usage tax could raise more than $34 billion through 2050, but the agency's chief economist, Ray Major, said the final figures would have changed once the scope was narrowed to implementation of the proposal in 2030.

However, San Diego County Supervisor Chairwoman Nora Vargas said much of the concern was coming from a place of misinformation.

``The previous SANDAG Board directed an amendment to remove the [Road User Charge] from the regional plan,'' she wrote in a statement. ``SANDAG is working on this and will submit the amendment to the state. The state will make the final decision. To be clear, no government agency has the authority to implement a tax that would impact our region without voter approval.''

Last September, SANDAG's Board of Directors voted to exclude it from SANDAG's Regional Transportation plan, following several Democratic lawmakers making a last-minute turn against the proposal.

SANDAG's Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata proceeded anyway with a plan that retained the charge. Ikhrata has since announced his departure from the regional planning agency, effective Dec. 29.

San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond is a frequent critic of SANDAG's regional transportation plan, saying the organization ``needs a plan we can all buy into regionally, instead of doom and gloom, and mileage taxes.''

``We have a crucial opportunity to voice our opposition to this intrusive and burdensome taxation policy,'' Desmond said ahead of the board meeting. ``If you are against paying for every mile you drive and do not want to be tracked and taxed for your travels, now is the time to take action.''

The board is made up of representatives from the 18 municipalities in the county and from the county at large.

Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.


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