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Maryland taxes rain

Give Governor Martin O’Malley credit.  Not only can he raise already existing taxes he can find new, ingenious levies to lay upon an already overburdened citizenry.  Behold the rain tax.

In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered Maryland to raise money to reduce storm water runoff in order to reduce phosphorus and nitrogen levels in the Chesapeake Bay.  In response the Maryland General Assembly passed  HB 987 mandating that the state’s 10 largest counties generate the revenue through taxing “impervious surfaces” (roofs, driveways, patios, parking lots) in order to pay for storm water management.  Beginning in July, property owners will now see a new line item on their tax bills based on the amount of impervious surface on their property.  The amount of impervious surface a property owner has will be calculated using satellite and geographical information system technology.  Government property is exempt from the law.

The law’s fiscal policy note pegs the price tag for implementing the the program at $14.8 billion.

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As Gazzette columnist Blair Lee notes, the law is not so firm on where the money can be spent.  In addition to funding stream and wetlands protection, a great deal of the tax revenue will flow into the bureaucratic maw for monitoring and inspection. Also, like the carbon pork in Maryland’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative law taxpayer dollars from the rain tax will flow into the hands of the environmental groups that lobbied for the law, for “outreach” and “education.”

Virginia fought the EPA storm water mandate arguing that the agency overstepped its authority under the Clean Water Act.  In January, federal judge Liam O’Grady agreed stating in his ruling that “storm water runoff is not a pollutant and EPA is not authorized to protect it.”

Mark Newgent

Mark Newgent is a contributing editor to Red Maryland, the premiere blog of conservative politics in the Free State, voted one of the best state political blogs by the Washington Post two years in a row. His writing has appeared in the Baltimore Sun, Washington Examiner, National Review Online, and more. Twitter: @MarkNewgent

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Categories: Budget and Finance, Environment, Must Read, Policy
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