Regulatory Reform

Rain Tax Fines Drench Maryland’s Carroll County

Maryland’s Carroll County recently received a letter from Assistant Attorney General Paul DeSantis, threatening to fine the county $10,000 for each day that it does not enact a storm water remediation fee, also known as a “Rain Tax.”

The infamous Rain Tax bill came as a response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “pollution diet” known as the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load. The “pollution diet” requires reductions in pollutants that are primarily found in drainage run-off and fertilizers. The bill was signed by Governor O’Malley this past April and requires 10 of Maryland’s 24 counties to charge an annual rain tax. Carroll County is one of 10 counties that have decided not to enact a fee, voting instead to set aside funds for general storm water projects.

Thus far, nine counties have designated fees for residential and commercial “impervious surfaces.” Howard County for example, has set its fee at $15 per 500 square feet of impervious surface on all properties. It is estimated that the fee will generate $18 million annually for Howard County. Interestingly, Frederick County set its fee at $0.01 for all impervious surfaces, and is expected to generate an estimated $482.50 annually. Frederick County Commissioner President Blaine Young says that the board set such a low fee “just to be in compliance because we are completely in disagreement with why we are having to do this.”

Carroll County Commissioner Haven Shoemaker said yesterday that he believes his county is in compliance with Maryland law, citing the fact that the county has designated monies from their general fund for storm water improvement projects. The Commissioner hopes to sit down with the Attorney General’s office and resolve the issue amicably.

In a comment to ALEC, Maryland Senate Minority Whip, Joe Getty of Carroll County explained, “Our position in Carroll County is that we are up to date with storm water management projects required by the Maryland Department of the Environment and that for future projects over the next 10 years, we already have a funding source from the existing county development fee structure. Therefore, we oppose a state mandate to create a new tax for something our citizens are already taxed on—we’ve got the issue fully satisfied.”

The rain tax will be levied annually on the amount of impervious surface that is on a property, making it complicated to administer. Impervious surfaces include driveways, sidewalks, parking lots, and roofs. Additionally, Maryland is the only state in the Mid-Atlantic region that has chosen to comply with the EPA’s standards by levying a tax.

Maryland is no stranger to tax increases. In fact, since Governor O’Malley took office in 2007, there have been 40 tax, fee, and toll increases. The rain tax is another burden to add to the list. Given Maryland’s dismal economic outlook rank of 35th in Rich States, Poor States, the Governor and legislators would be wise to re-think this destructive tax-and-spend approach to policymaking.


In Depth: Regulatory Reform

In his first inaugural address, Thomas Jefferson said that “the sum of good government” was one “which shall restrain men from injuring one another” and “shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry.” Sadly, governments – both federal and state – have ignored this axiom and…

+ Regulatory Reform In Depth