San Diego plotting to tax drivers 'into submission' with new highway mileage toll

San Diego County’s Regional Transportation Agency toll lane plan aims to encourage drivers to use public transit

As California’s second-most populous county prepares to convert 800 miles of highway roads into toll lanes, one local leader is sounding off on the plan that will tax residents "into submission."

"They're trying to tax us into submission, into using mass transit," San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond said Thursday on "Varney & Co." "They have this huge $165 billion mass transit plan for the future, and that's going to be buses and trains and things like that, and they want to tax us into submission."

San Diego County’s Regional Transportation Agency (SANDAG) approved plans to add three new half-cent sales tax increases, more than 800 miles of San Diego County freeway lanes converted to toll lanes, and a mileage tax for every mile driven "to make driving so expensive that you succumb to public transportation," Desmond previously wrote in a Fox News op-ed.

Instead of building proposed road improvements, according to Desmond, this move will continue to tax drivers through 2048.


"Charging fees for the transportation infrastructure that people use — for example, charging users for each mile they drive on the highway — can change travel behavior," SANDAG’s financial statement reads.

Cars drive on San Diego freeway

San Diego County is preparing to spend $165 billion to turn more than 800 miles of freeway roads into toll lanes, taxing drivers for every mile. (Getty Images)

Desmond called the move a "bait and switch" that will only "hurt the people."

"The people everybody [is] trying to protect: the service workers, the plumbers, the landscapers and people like that who actually have to drive to and from to get to work, and it's going to penalize them," Desmond told host Stuart Varney.

"Transit ridership is down throughout the country with COVID," he continued, "and also with the fact that we just don't have the density in San Diego County to support this type of thing."

San Diego County’s supervisor had previously noted that low-income earners will feel the greatest impact from the toll lane tax decision.

"Who will this affect the most? The lowest income earners. The math is simple, those that earn less will pay a disproportionately higher percentage of their income to get to where they need to go," Desmond wrote. "Government should embrace what most people are already choosing, and make it cleaner, safer, and more efficient. The people have spoken, they choose freedom of movement and not broken promises or additional taxes."

Desmond further called out California as a bellwether state for liberal ideas, claiming that climate change "is the new religion" for Democrats.

"We all want clean water, we all want clean air. But instead of embracing the technologies of yesterday with buses and trains, technology is going to change over in the next 30 years five or ten times," the county leader said.


"I think if we make what people are already doing, the people that are already driving, make that safer, make it cleaner, make it more efficient with new engines and fusions coming out, I think there's a lot more potential with technology to clean up the climate and things like that," Desmond continued, "as opposed to trying to put people in buses and trains."

San Diego’s $165 billion highway initiative comes months after a California board moved forward with plans to require all new vehicles in the state to run on electricity by 2035, an ambitious goal by America's most populated state to phase out gasoline-powered automobiles and curb carbon emissions.


FOX Business’ Louis Casiano contributed to this report.