Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan took the first step toward repealing the state’s “rain tax,” which is levied on property owners for land with impervious surfaces to pay for EPA-mandated programs to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.
“Passing a state law that forces counties to raise taxes on their citizens against their will is not the best way to address the issue,” said Mr. Hogan, a Republican. “Marylanders have made perfectly clear that further taxing struggling and already overtaxed Marylanders for the rain that falls on the roof of their homes was a mistake that needs to be corrected.”
He made the announcement surrounded by county executives, legislators and business leaders.
“The rain tax is less about cleaning up the Bay than it is about imposing another tax on our citizens, as Carroll County found out last year when the attorney general threatened us with a $10,000 a day fine for not levying one,” said Delegate Haven Shoemaker, Carroll Republican.
The “rain tax” was one of the most unpopular taxes levied under former Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat who is considering a 2016 presidential run.
If the repeal is successful, the state will have to replace the revenue to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s unfunded mandate for the $14.8 billion clean-up plan, which seeks to decrease stormwater runoff into the Bay.
Mr. Hogan next has to get the bill through the Democrat-run General Assembly.
Mr. Hogan said his proposal wouldn’t change requirements that 10 Maryland jurisdictions pay for stormwater management to help stop pollution from rainfall that flows into state waters from roads and other impervious surfaces. The bill would enable counties to find alternative ways of funding it, he said, like Carroll County already is doing.
“It has everything to do with my belief, and the overwhelming majority of Marylanders’ beliefs, that the state should not be forcing counties to raise taxes on their citizens against their will,” Mr. Hogan said.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is opposing the measure. The group contends the current law creates funding for programs that counties had failed to produce on their own for years.
“That’s why the 2012 law was such a milestone,” said Alison Prost, Maryland executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “For the first time, local governments were provided resources to address the problem and many of them have already started to implement improvements. The bills introduced today would send Maryland backwards.”
Harford County Executive Barry Glassman said the governor’s bill would give counties a chance to meet federally mandated requirements on stormwater management that fit them best. He also said it would eliminate the guesswork counties would face in terms of interpretation of how the law applies to them, if they sought a different approach as Carroll County did.
“It really levels the playing field for all Maryland counties, so that we can address this individually,” Mr. Glassman, a Republican, said.
Sen. James Brochin, a Democrat, said the law is flawed, because affected jurisdictions are addressing the requirements in vastly different ways.
“There’s no unification on how to clean up the bay, and everybody is kind of doing their own thing,” Mr. Brochin, of Baltimore County, said.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Calvert Democrat, has said he doesn’t support an outright repeal, but he backs giving counties more discretion in how they pay for stormwater management. House Speaker Michael Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat, has expressed opposition to changing the law.
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