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Maryland’s “Rain Tax” sets ugly precedent in government

Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 10:18 am

General Manager/Editor Ron Schott

As our economic times continue to hit individual and business taxpayers more and more, the last thing any of us want to hear about is the promise of more taxes.
Tax increases might range from local and state/federal initiatives, increases in property taxes, or changes in the health care system.
My home state of Maryland has recently set a deadline of July 1 for 10 counties along with the City of Baltimore to establish what is being called a “Rain Tax.”
Yes, that is not a typo. A “storm management fee” passed by Maryland’s state legislature in 2012 will generate revenue to help improve payment for cleanup when rain water carries things like sediment and other pollutants streaming off buildings, pavements, and roads that end up in the Chesapeake Bay. When rainwater hits the ground, pollutants reportedly from sewage, urban runoff, and animal feces goes into waterways.
The law exempts government-owned properties from the fee.
The fee amounts would be determined by a calculation for the surface area of properties under the thought that driveways and roofs create more potential for water contamination and drainage problems.
The government will assess the fees based off satellite imagery and geographic information systems. Yes, indeed satellite imagery, though I wonder how much that will cost in itself.
Estimates show that single-family homes in Baltimore city would be charged $48-$144 per year. Larger properties would pay $72 per 1,050 square feet per year. Baltimore County may charge homeowners $18 and $36 a year. One official estimate for an apartment complex with 127,680 square feet of impervious surface on a 5-acre lot would be charged $4,400.
Harford County may charge a flat fee of $125 for residential properties while Howard County is considering a charge of $105.
According to state officials, $482 million will be raised annually to finance the $14.8 billion storm water cleanup bonds by 2025. An estimated 75 percent of the revenue comes from homeowners and 25 percent comes from non-residential property owners. While the government is exempt from the tax, non-profits like churches will be required to pay the tax.
Catholic Charities in Baltimore said they approximate the fee or tax at 200 properties in that area would cost them “hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.”
Before you say this is only happening in Maryland because of the Chesapeake Bay, it’s important to see why this fee was passed by the state legislature to start with.
In 2010, the EPA ordered Maryland to reduce storm water runoff into the Chesapeake Bay so that nitrogen levels reportedly fall 22 percent along with a 15 percent decrease in phosphorus.
This declaration is how the $14.8 billion price tag came into play.
A precedent has now been established in Maryland to, in essence, tax residents for rain.
All it would take is for the EPA to make a similar mandate to Missouri residents and we too could be paying the government some money for perhaps flushing our toilet too many times or be taxed for breathing with its effects regarding carbon emissions.
I’m personally tired of state and local governments continuing to find ways to take money out of our wallets and purses while not controlling the way they spend all of the money.
It’s a scary time we’re living in and quite frankly we never know what the local and national government will come up with next.