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Rain-Tax-itis Catching among Politicians

“I was for it before I was against it” is an enduring political line.  In the case of two Maryland politicians, Delegates Steve Schuh and Nicholaus Kipke, Republicans from District 31, they were for the “rain tax” before they were against it.  In the case of a third,  Howard County Executive Ullman, his upcoming run on the Democrat ticket for Lt. Governor seems to have given him impetus to simplify and delay the Howard County rain tax.

GOP minority leader Kipke voted for HB 987, which created the mandate, the first time it was on the House floor.  He voted against it the second time.  Delegate Schuh voted for the bill, both times.

Delegates Schuh and Kipke recently came out against Anne Arundel’s rain tax burden for residential homeowners.

The fiscal and policy note for this legislation had a clear example, citing the average tax per property to be $60:

However, for illustrative purposes only, assuming an average residential stormwater remediation fee of $60 annually, local revenues may increase statewide by roughly $86.7 million annually beginning in the first full year of implementation.

An annual residential fee of $60 is assessed on detached single-family residential properties, with a $30 fee for apartments, condominiums, and townhouses.

Under the illustrative scenario, about 75% of revenue is collected from residential properties and 25% from nonresidential properties. Of the residential revenue collected, about 84% is derived from detached, single-family properties, and about 16% is from other properties, classified as apartments, townhouses, or condominiums within SDAT data.

…Nevertheless, it is likely that a fee of greater than that described in the example above will be necessary to fully fund the preliminary cost estimates for local stormwater management activities needed under the WIP.  [emphasis mine]

When Delegate Schuh was reminded, on his Facebook page, that he voted for this mandate on local government, he responded:

Frederick County passed a one cent tax. The County Council was free to do whatever it wanted. I don’t sit on the County Council.

Schuh was quoted in the Baltimore Sun on June 21, 2013, as saying:

“We gave the keys to the kids and they drove the car into a ditch,” Schuh said in an interview Friday. “The state gave authority to the counties and we expected it to be exercised responsibly and in this case, it was not.”

The Anne Arundel rain tax bill, 2-13, was introduced on 1/22/13.   It was vetoed by County Executive Neuman. The Anne Arundel County Council overrode her veto on May 1, 2013.  In between those dates, dozens of amendments were introduced and voted on, and residents and business owners testified in droves.  During this time, there were no public statements by Delegates Schuh or Kipke against this tax or the manner of implementation.

Given the fiscal and policy note for the bill, for which Delegate Schuh twice voted, the rates of $34, $85 or $170 for residential homeowners were reasonable, compared with policy estimates.  Since Schuh cannot escape his votes, he is using rhetoric to deflect from his record.

In the case of Howard County Executive Ulman, the proposed, complicated rain tax scheme was his idea.  A press release on Howard County’s website says:

“This is a step we have to take, and it is a step that is right to take,” said Executive Ulman, who was joined by Councilman Calvin Ball, District 2, for the announcement.“Howard County will do its part to keep our waters clean. Uncontrolled stormwater runoff is a significant problem that has been overlooked for too long”…

Executive Ulman is proposing a fee of $7.80 per 500 squarefeet of impervious surface on a property. Through the county’s sophisticated Geographic Information Services technology, the amount of impervious surface (building footprint and paved surfaces) can be precisely calculated for every home and business property.

The County Council’s final plan collected more tax than Ulman’s proposal but retained the complicated system for estimates.  On June 20, Executive Ulman thought better of the plan passed by the Council and proposed a simple structure that lessened the effect of the tax on Howard residents.  He was quoted in the Baltimore Sun as saying:

“When I looked at implementing the plan that had passed, I fundamentally felt there was a simpler, more fair way to move forward,” Ulman said.

The tax, although on the books, will not be billed until December, even though it should be billed on the July property tax invoices.  The Council is now debating the issue.

Elizabeth Myers

Elizabeth Myers is a grassroots activist, certified Constitutionist (US and Maryland Constitutions, Institute on the Constitution), and fed up Marylander. Maryland Legislative Watch was started out of this frustration and the goal is to alert fellow Marylanders to bad (and a few good) bills that normally pass under the radar. Any writing on Watchdog Wire is my opinion only.

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