Kipke Signs Pledge to Repeal "Rain Tax"August 13, 2013
It is “Raining Taxes” in Maryland. We know it as the “rain tax,” but it is officially called a “storm water fee.” For years the Maryland General Assembly has been pushing legislation to charge property owners a fee to pay for storm water pollution management. What is storm water pollution? It is not the actual rain that they are trying to deal with but rather the silt, trash, pesticides, and other nasty stuff that rushes towards creeks, rivers, and the ultimately the Chesapeake Bay after a heavy rainfall. Managing it is a worthy goal, but as with many government initiatives the devil is in the details.
For years legislation was pushed that would have required the state to charge property owners a fee to be used to fund storm water projects but was successfully defeated by Republicans and moderate Democrats. Our fear was two-fold: people can’t continually absorb taxes and fee increases, and looking at history the state budgeting process often allows for gimmicks that prevent dollars intended to do good thing from actually achieving the goal. For example over one billion dollars raised through the gas tax was taken from road repair dollars since 2009. Despite that the EPA passed an order requiring six states to reduce their pollution to protect the Chesapeake Bay. The order is aggressive and carries with it hefty fines if ignored. So in 2012 a “compromise bill” passed in the legislature to bypass the state and give the authority to do this to the counties. The bill required ten of Maryland’s largest counties to find funds to implement a plan to reduce storm water pollution and use the money on capital projects to collect and manage storm water pollutants from reaching the bay. These projects include planting grasses and trees, building mounds, creating rainwater collection ponds, and other mechanisms to slow the travel of rainwater to waterways by allowing more time for the water to percolate into the soil. Initially I considered supporting this but in the end I just had to vote against it out of fear that the counties would pass along exorbitant fees. Boy was I right - and Anne Arundel is among the highest!
Anne Arundel’s decision about the rain tax is to charge $85 for most single family homes and $34 for condominiums and townhomes even if your neighborhood was built with pollution controls. Commercial property will really get hammered with expensive fees and that is a jobs killer that could be the nail in the coffin for struggling businesses like Marley Station Mall who has to pass these costs onto tenants. In contrast other counties have taken a more reasonable approach. For example, Carroll County is not charging their citizens a new fee and is using existing resources to meet and even exceed pollution reduction goals.
I’ve joined a group of like-minded legislators who want to repeal the “rain tax,” and I encourage you to visit stopmdraintax.com to sign a petition to urge all lawmakers to vote to repeal this legislation next session. You can also learn which candidates for the 2014 election support the repeal and sign up to volunteer. Marylanders are some of the highest taxed people in America and we have the fifth highest cost of living of any state in the nation. This new fee added to what I estimate to be more than 70 new taxes and fees since the O’Malley/Brown administration took office is making it really difficult for many to continue calling Maryland home. I voted against the “rain tax” and will aggressively work to see that it is repealed.