What SANDAG doesn’t want you to know about the new “Vehicle Miles Traveled” tax

Fourteen questions and problems about the Vehicle Miles Traveled tax (VMT), which will violate your privacy, increase your energy costs, and expose you to identity theft and government surveillance.

By Nina J. Babiarz, Public Watchdogs’ Director of Development

Get Nina’s Testimony at SANDAG in mp4 format.

Three minutes at SANDAGSANDAG, the San Diego Association of Governments is planning to impose a county-wide tax on motorists, and this time, it’s personal.

The Vehicle Miles Traveled tax will be based on the number of miles your vehicle travels, which means that government bureaucrats will have access to an enormously valuable treasure trove of your personal information about you, your family, and your personal habits.
Get the KUSI 7/39 television  interview

   Get video. This planned cost-per-mile tax will somehow track your vehicle’s movements and charge you a fee for every mile you travel.  Unfortunately, a small handful of SANDAG board members control a “weighted vote” that gives more votes to a small minority that are in favor of higher taxes.  They are  supporting this new and unnecessary means of taxation because it paves the way for greater government revenues  and provides an easy way to raise taxes.

Here are 15 reasons why VMT is a bad idea:

1. Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) makes every road a toll road.  Taxpayers have already paid for road construction, making this a tax on top of a tax.

2. It converts every private vehicle into a tracking device, that will tell the government where you live, visit, work, eat, and play.  The government will have access to every detail of your travels throughout the day.

3. It will be expensive to install. Drivers and businesses will probably be forced to pay for the installation and aftermarket hardware required to perform the tracking.

4. Will the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) demand proof that the costly VMT hardware has been installed correctly?  Will proof of VMT be required before a driver can renew his or her vehicle registration?

5. Will a driver be penalized or imprisoned if the driver refuses to comply with hardware installation and tracking requirements?

6. What software will be used to calculate your VMT? Who will own and have access to your personal VMT data?

7. Who will regulate the VMT data collected?  A private company or a public agency? Can you really trust big corporations or government bureaucrats with our personal data?

8. Will your personal VMT data be sold to private corporations?   Will VMT become a source for for additional “revenue generation” from the sale of information about where you shop, when you travel, and when your office or home are not occupied?

9. What are the risks of Identity Theft?  Considering the inherent privacy risks with VMT data, what are the repercussions of VMT data breach or theft?  Are local governments prepared reimburse identity theft victims who have lost their jobs, their credit, and their reputations?

10. How will SANDAG prevent data breaches and theft?  VMT billing will probably be similar to FasTrak, which requires access to personal financial data such as  credit cards or debit accounts.

11. Increased costs are a punch below the motorist’s money belt.  Will businesses find a way to pass their increased VMT fees onto their customers?

12. VMT has been approved without proper notice to the public. The most recent VMT vote was taken while many San Diego constituents were on summer break. It also occurred on the first holiday after COVID, which is unfair and deceptive.

13. It could cause huge increases in insurance rates.  How will auto insurance rates be impacted by multiple drivers that use the same vehicle in a family? Who will pay for what portion of the VMT calculated?

14. SANDAG’s voting system can make bad policies even worse.  The SANDAG Board uses a weighted vote.  This means that North and East County residents could be unfairly burdened with higher VMT costs than the residents of San Diego or Chula Vista.

15. VMT subsidizes gas hogs and transport vehicles. With VMT, a small, fuel efficient vehicle such as Vespa Scooter, will pay the same amount of tax as a heavy, road-damaging cement truck or 18-wheel tractor. This type of taxation is not only unfair to people who are trying to leave the smallest carbon footprint, but it also subsidizes the drivers of heavy gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles.

Public Watchdogs is dedicated to the premise that the Public has a Right to Know” the answers to all the questions and issues raised above.  More time is needed to accommodate your fundamental right to participate and react to unfair cost-per-mile tax schemes like Vehicle Miles Traveled.

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