Kipke Voted Against the "Rain Tax" and did all he could to protect taxpayersJune 9, 2014
We know it as the rain tax, but it is officially called a stormwater fee. For years, the Maryland General Assembly has pushed legislation to charge property owners a fee to pay for stormwater pollution management. What is stormwater pollution? It is not the actual rain they are trying to deal with but rather the silt, trash, pesticides and other nasty stuff that rushes
toward creeks, rivers and 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 stormwater projects, but it was successfully defeated by Republicans and moderate Democrats. Our fear was twofold: 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 things from actually achieving the goal.
For example, more than $1 billion 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 10 of Maryland’s largest counties to find funds to implement a plan to reduce stormwater pollution and use the money on capital projects to collect and manage stormwater pollutants and prevent them from reaching the bay. These projects include planting grasses and trees, building mounds, creating rainwater collection ponds and using 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! Click here to see the official final vote.
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 job-killer that could be the nail in the coffin for struggling businesses like Marley Station Mall, which has to pass these costs on to tenants.
In contrast, other counties have taken a more reasonable approach. For example, Carroll County is not charging its 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 www.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.
Posted on www.PasadenaVoice.com, July 18, 2013