Maryland lawmakers in 2012 passed a bill to levy a fine on anything that prevented rain water from reaching the earth (i.e. roofs, patios, etc.), meaning many state residents had no choice but to literally pay a tax on rain.
However, the measure has apparently proven unpopular enough that a few state lawmakers finally proposed some serious changes this week.
Snow storms all up and down the East Coast forced Maryland’s state government to close Tuesday, but not before several committees held hearings on legislation calling for a repeal or modification of the Storm Water Management Watershed and Restoration Program.
One of the proposed measures, according to WBAL-TV, suggested that the 10 jurisdictions affected by the rain tax law use their own general funds to curb runoff.
"If a local jurisdiction says we can fund that in our general fund budget, we don't have to have a new tax. Why would we force them to have a new tax? This just gives flexibility to local governments," said the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Alan Kittleman (R).
Another bill called for a two-year moratorium on the implementation of the original rain tax.
"Some of the counties have received threatening letters and fines of up to $32,000 a day. So I want to kind of put a stop to that until we get a chance to see what [the Maryland Department of Environment] expects from each county," bill co-sponsor state Sen. Barry Glassman (R) said.
But attempts to modify or overturn the rain tax may face an uphill battle. Storms on Tuesday kept supporters of the new measures at home -- but supporters of the rain tax made sure their presence was felt at the hearings.
"Delaying the fee requirement, delaying enforcement just allows our local water quality to languish," Chesapeake Bay Foundation affiliate Alison Propts said.
State Senator Mike Miller (D) lashed out at jurisdictions that have so far ignored the rain tax mandate: "You ought to look inside at the mirror and maybe help us all."
There was no immediate reschedule date for other bills. Meanwhile, state Sen. Miller and Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch, a Democrat, both declared the repeal legislation “dead on arrival,” WBAL-TV reported.
The rain tax is the result of the Environmental Protection Agency ordering Maryland in 2010 to curb storm water runoff into the Chesapeake Bay, explaining that the state needed to reduce its nitrogen levels by roughly 22 percent and its phosphorus levels by 15 percent.
The EPA estimated that the project would cost roughly $14.8 billion. In response to this hefty price tag, Maryland lawmakers designed a tax that could be levied on all “impervious surfaces” (i.e. a rain tax).
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