Charles' Commentary on the "Rain Tax"
With all of this rain recently, I'd bet that the O'Malley - Brown administration is pretty excited about all of the "revenue" they're bringing into the counties. Just about everyone following Maryland politics now knows that if they have an "impervious surface" on their property, depending on which county they live in, they could be paying more in taxes. This all hinges on what each required county charges per "equivalent residential units" or ERUs. Of course county and state governments aren't required or subjected to these new "storm-water remediation fees."
Yes, this is going to make it even harder to do business in Maryland. Yes, Maryland is the only state in the region that is complying with the EPA mandate. Yes, this bill was passed under the guise of cleaning up the Bay. And yes, counties can pretty much do anything they want with this money as there are very flexible guidelines. However, there is a much deeper story that is not being covered and that many folks haven't considered.
If you all remember, last year to "balance" the state's budget, the administration pushed much of the teacher pension costs back to the counties. This move has severely hurt county budgets as they've had to move appropriations from certain capital projects to cover these new pension costs. The governments across our state that are the closest to the people are often our counties. Don't worry, our counties will figure out how to make it work, but it makes it much harder for them.
So what is this rain tax really about? In my estimation, this is just the state paying the counties back for pushing pensions down to them, using the EPA mandate as an excuse. I applaud Frederick County Executive Blaine Young for only charging the residents of Frederick one penny per ERU. The law forced him to comply but he made the right choice by mocking a laughable law.
This bill is hurting non-profits like churches and could drive them out of service. It's going to drive up costs for malls, grocery stores, and just about everything else with a large, "impervious surface." In the end it will drive up the costs for consumers to buy products and make it even harder for people to find jobs.