Op-Ed: Proposed Tax on Road Mileage Crosses the Line

Our regional governmental bodies have gone too far with this idea that we'd be charged up to 10 cents per mile as we travel our local roads.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments are studying a "tax on mileage" in order to generate upward of $15 million a day to fund roads and public transit and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. 

Drivers would have to put GPS-like odometers in their cars that would track their mileage. Under a proposal, drivers could pay from less than a penny to as much as a dime for every mile driven, according to a story by the Associated Press. The idea could take a decade to be launched.

We are talking about both a travel tax and government-mandated tracking devices.  It sounds like something out of a science fiction novel.

When gas gets to be more than $5 dollars a gallon and sales tax upward of 10-12 percent, and the added transportation tax comes into play, there will be no reason to leave the town you live in.  ABAG and MTC consider this as one part of a multilayer land-use and transportation plan. 

The draft environmental review is scheduled for January. The committee chair is Randy Rentschler.

The fact that ABAG and MTC would even suggest a plan that requires Bay Area motorists to drive in cars monitored by the government is such an extreme violation of civil rights that dismantling the current regional agencies and creating local agencies in their place has become an urgent alternative.

How else will we defend ourselves against the radical changes proposed by our regional agencies?  

Bob Silvestri August 03, 2012 at 08:31 PM
The audacity of this proposal by MTC / ABAG and the fact that a single taxpayer dollar is even being spent on a study and EIR for this only reinforces how completely out of control these unelected organizations have become. Their powers must be curbed and this adds to the reasons for Marin and north bay counties to resign from ABAG and form their own Council of Governments. MTC was caught with their noses in the public trough last year when they illegally purchased a $180 million dollar building for themselves with taxpayer money (see: http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_20568611/contra-costa-times-editorial-legislative-counsel-right-about). I'm told on good authority by someone who participated in the early scoping sessions for the One Bay Area Plan that MTC is now trying to save face about the failure of SB375 to reduce greenhouse gases by declaring war on Bay Area taxpayers with this draconian proposal (studies are showing that SB375 will do nothing to reduce GHGs as required: see http://millvalley.patch.com/articles/op-ed-the-truth-about-sb375-and-the-one-bay-area-plan). Further, MTC never disclosed their intention to propose this to our elected representative members in the scoping sessions.
Trish Boorstein August 03, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Thank you Tina and Bob for shedding light on this crazy scam! The Contra Costa link above only reinforces how corrupt these agencies can be. Imagine how nice our schools, roads, other infrastructure could be if we redirected this money going to these bogus agencies, to where California really needs it!
Al Dugan August 03, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Tina, first let me thank you for your vigilance in monitoring the never ending assault by regional and state entities on cities and the public. Your work is consistently well researched as well as clearly and concisely written. Now I will move on to the subject of the Op-Ed. George Orwell would have had trouble thinking this up. It is wrong on so many different levels that the only thing to say is no way, and we have to assure this does not happen, period.
Al Dugan August 03, 2012 at 09:37 PM
Well said Mr. Belfor. This is the primary cause of higher gas prices. If you check to today when the job numbers jumped the oil brokers speculators pushed oil up on expectations of a recovering economy.
Al Dugan August 03, 2012 at 09:45 PM
For the record, this happen today. Oil prices also rose as investors became more optimistic about the economy following the jump in hiring by U.S. employers. Benchmark crude shot up $2.76 to $89.96 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Lloyd August 03, 2012 at 10:56 PM
Well said. The system is so rigged to game the public and there is no cry of outrage from the media or the politicians. The latter has for the most part been bought off here in CA as well as in DC. The media that used to credible to provide news instead of being used by corporate giants & power brokers to produce propaganda. We owe a lot to people like Tina that give us the information we need. It is up to all of us, the public, to band together first locally and stop the corruption and hopefully by example encourage others to follow. It can work as it did with the housing debacle but take time and effort to organize. Most importantly it takes the majority getting off the sidelines and participating.
Craig Belfor August 04, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Will Rogers said "The way to solve the traffic problem is to take all the cars of the road that aren't paid for". The purpose of taxes is to raise revenue and influence spending. That's why we charge toll for a bridge that's paid for and subsidize the ferries and buses. The problem is that just like every other good idea, it gets bastardised by the insiders who twist it line their pockets. (MTC's new HQ, Bob)The amazing thing to me is that they can somehow sell this convoluted plot to the masses they'll hurt in order to pull it off. Getting rednecks to go tea party is like getting Jews to vote for Hitler. Every year of our economic history the financial institutions have been about 8% of the gross national product except 2 years. In 1929 they were 20%. They are now 22%. Check for yourself. Ask 10 people what they do. Two of them will be consultants, traders, stockbrokers, bankers, or advisors. We can't have one of every five people a bacon painter, showing us the rosy picture but hiding the fat. Someone around here has to do the work, and we're getting bled by the bacon painters. I don't care if the mayor never went to college. I learned more from the Grab Bag and moving than I ever learned in college.
Bob Silvestri August 04, 2012 at 03:38 AM
Dick Spotswood nails it. Send this article to everyone you know. http://www.marinij.com/opinion/ci_21231934/dick-spotswood-regions-bureaucrats-looking-at-taxing-commutes
Rico August 04, 2012 at 05:54 AM
It's a joke ! Nobody in their right mind would put a GPS tracking device in their personal, private transportation vehicle. I guarantee it will never happen to any SMART person. If one is STUPID, then all bets are off !
Mark Schoenbaum August 04, 2012 at 06:22 AM
I'll put it on my dog and they can track how many miles he covers in the backyard...
Rico August 05, 2012 at 01:44 AM
This ABAG plan rings a familiar bell, it sounds like the SmartMeter scam where in a few years, they are going to try an experiment with time differentiated pricing. We now can opt out of having a SmartMeter, but I refused it from the beginning, so I never got one. The same goes for mandatory placement of a land-based GPS system on a vehicle to document miles traveled. It will never become mandatory, they can't force people to pay for radio transmitting devices installed in their personal vehicles. I don't commute but I do (as a small business owner) travel to job sites locally, and I have to charge for all time and expenses traveling to and from all jobs. What ABAG's proposal does, in invoke a one size fits all charge on all vehicle owners. I can assure you, it will never happen. There is no legal way to mandate such a thing, and while commuters will rile up, business owners will make sure it will never happen. Thank goodness for reality, JUST SAY NO !
M. Calwald August 05, 2012 at 01:57 AM
Does MTC think the public is THAT stupid? Perhaps they do as the public seems to be asleep. Ever watched a MTC meeting or attended one? It's a junior high presentation, steering people in the areas MTC wants them to go. They talk at you, not to you. Spotswood is right. Silvestri is right. McMillian is right. It's time to abolish ABAG, but our city council won't! Corte Madera is the best city council in Marin.
Mark Schoenbaum August 05, 2012 at 02:16 AM
Lucky you - PG&E rushed to slap one on my house before you could opt-out and I am not gong to pay them even more for the priviledge. Of course now my bills have increased 25%...
Bob Laru August 05, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Talk, talk, talk. That is all the the majority do. Just look at the voter turnout. Get the i-phones out our ears and the i-pads away from our faces! These devices aren't making us more aware, just dumbing us down. re: Tracking Devices. "They wouldn't do that. They can't do that. They did it." Just wait. By the time the public hears about these schemes, it is already on its way.
JPR August 05, 2012 at 03:43 PM
so it is important to get the word out about this. eventually there has to be a revolt. the middle class can't pay for all of this anymore.
JPR August 05, 2012 at 03:45 PM
i didn't want a smart meter and they stuck one on. had to pay 75.00 to have it removed and now 10.00 a month for it to be read. the meter readers charge was already included in our bills, but they now are sticking us with an extra 10.00 for those that don't have it. think about what all the smart meters are doing to our air and environment.
Rico August 05, 2012 at 05:12 PM
It is true that most all new cars come with GPS devices installed at the factory, and there is a rumor that this will be mandatory in the future. The corporately controlled government says that these GPD devices are for our safety and , systems like OnStar that take the signal from the satellite (that originates on earth) log the coordinates and rebroadcast it on a mobile phone frequency can help a little bit in an emergency. But that is not the primary purpose of these devices. One purpose is to help the struggling manufactures of cheap Chinese electronic wireless devices. But the main reason is so the corporate government can monitor the citizens. I read that all smartphones have a secret battery that keep transmitting coordinates even if the main battery is removed. (I don't know if this is a scientific fact-because I read it on the internet), but they explained that one can locate the wires to the secret battery and snip the wires, and the phone will still work perfectly. I keep my vehicles for decades because I don't have to commute or drive a whole lot, older cars do not have GPS devices built in. But, if one does need to purchase a new car, there are plenty of smart hackers out there that can disable a GPS device. Also, both of my mobile phones have a GPS enable/disable feature, and I have never enabled any GPS, I simply don't have any use for one now because I am not a surveyor, in the military or law enforcement businesses. and that is what a GPS is for.
Tina McMillan August 05, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Dick Spotswood does a great job of reporting on local, regional and state agencies. I find his columns extremely helpful. I am not a numbers person but I believe the yearly figure in this article may be incorrect. I believe $15 million dollars a day comes out to $5,475,000,000 a year not $547,000,000 a year.
Bob August 06, 2012 at 02:26 PM
The folks at ABAG and MTC need to continually come up with more crap to justify their jobs. After going to several ABAG / MTC meetings it is clear that they are going ahead with their agenda despite any public input. Some of the mandates come from the politicians at the state and federal governments. I purpose that any politician that supports this tax, and they should be asked if they do, be remembered at election time. This issue alone would be enough to change my vote.
Bob August 06, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Craig, I believe the gas tax is based on gallons sold and not on the price of gas.
Bob August 06, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Once any region in California passes this it will be statewide in no time. Starting it in the bay area is probably a test case for Sacramento.
Scott August 08, 2012 at 12:01 AM
This is an absurd misunderstanding of how brokers (really speculators) operate that conspiracy theorists tend to throw out on the internet. You're implying they're manipulating the market and the very basic problem with this (besides the move being highly illegal) is doing so is very difficult and requires vast sums of money no broker, or speculator, has. And if one tries without the resources to do so, others will see pricing out of line with market supply and demand, trade the other way, make a ton and crush the manipulator. Even if you make the extraordinary leap that several, or many brokers (speculators) are colluding, the market is way stronger than they are and they will be crushed. This is a multi-trillion dollar international market and they'd have to rely on a worldwide conspiracy to make it happen. That means American companies will have to coordinate with European, Asian, African and, most importantly Arabian companies. Unless the vast majority are in on it, a bubble will be created and bubbles always burst. Those not in on it will see a mis-priced market and trade against it. They'll wait until the bubble bursts and make a ton of money. This was actually attempted a while ago. Google "Hunt Brothers Corner Silver Market." Silver is a much smaller market and it still couldn't happen. Manipulation of this sort can occasionally happen in the equity markets, but that requires much smaller amounts of capital and is fairly easily detected by regulators.
Craig Belfor August 08, 2012 at 04:20 AM
Absurd? Requires lots of cash and Arabian participation? Try Googling OPEC, and Morgan Stanley. The absurd thing is that they can sell it to the idiots who believe that brokers actually care about the victims of price manipulation. The economy had some good news today, and so the brokers jacked up the cost of oil that they already had contracts on. Reagan's deregulation of commodities brokers along with the savings and loans broke the fifty year old control that was instituted after the great depression, allowing a free for all for speculators. Brokers don't just buy futures to stabilize prices. They do it to make money at a cost to others, or they wouldn't do it.
Al Dugan August 08, 2012 at 05:37 AM
Mr. Belfor, spot on. The definition of a speculator is someone that makes money on the movement of goods sold so of course they add to the price of the basic engine of the economy oil.....some estimate it is a 20% difference.....Scott, what is the margin?
Mick Orton August 08, 2012 at 08:24 PM
This idea offends me. We already pay a hefty tax at the pump which is supposed to go to infrastructure. Just because the Federal and State Governments steal the money for the general fund is no reason why we should have to pay for their corruption. If we stand together we can put down this power grab. ABAG, pay attention. We are in a recession! WE DON'T HAVE THE MONEY!
Anne Tique August 09, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Lemme guess: Government vehicles/politicians there-in would be exempt from the restrictions and charges, right?
Craig Belfor August 09, 2012 at 05:40 PM
We buy the gas for the government vehicles with our tax money, so when you see a government vehicle being driven for personal use (commuting to work by bureaucrats who take the car or truck home, or taking it on personal trips to the store and vacation), you just bought the gas. Add to that the hefty pay/benefit/retirement package that politicians gave out to secure votes from unions and you now realize why brain surgeons are rethinking their career choice.
Ralph Canine August 31, 2012 at 05:45 PM
A Big Government tracking device in our cars? No way! What's next, a bar code tattooed on our arms? This isn't about saving the planet, it's about control -- not only control of our money, but control of our physical movements. It's time to abolish regional government and to repeal the enabling Agenda 21 inspired legislation. Repeal will not happen while the Democratic Party remains in control of Sacramento. The best hope is to elect Romney-Ryan and petition that all community development funds are deleted from the national budget. Without federal dollars, California couldn't afford this nonsense. In the meantime, there are many excellent relocation services available to help us move out of state.
Lloyd August 31, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Sacramento is broken and should be discarded. I'm not sure Romney is the answer to CA problems. We need to take back our state b4 we look to Washington for any accountability or answers.
Edwin Drake August 31, 2012 at 08:32 PM
Steve Kinsey is President of MTC, re-elected to the Board of Supervisors with a small number of actual votes. Funny I don't remember him mentioning this while campaigning.


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