Cumberland Times-News

April 29, 2013

Here it comes

State’s new ‘rain tax’ may have serious impact

Cumberland Times-News

— Here’s an old lament you may have heard:

“The next thing you know, they’ll even start taxing the air that we breathe.”

If such a thing does come to pass, it may happen in Maryland before it does anyplace else.

What makes us think this?

It’s because during the final hours of its most recent session, the Maryland General Assembly passed what amounts to a “rain tax” that will be leveled upon nine of the state’s counties and Baltimore City.

While the legislature did not set the tax rate, it mandated that local governments levy the tax themselves. Some counties, like Frederick, will set a lower rate than others.

This is not a new idea. During a previous legislative session, when it became apparent that a statewide gas tax increase would fail (it passed during the last go-around), it was proposed to allow individual counties to levy their own gas tax.

The tax is based on the premise that rainwater falling on impervious surfaces like roofs, parking lots and driveways will eventually wind up in the Chesapeake Bay. The revenue raised would go toward cleaning up the stormwater runoff in order to protect the bay.

If there’s anyone who shouldn’t be surprised by this, it’s the residents of Garrett County — who have to pay the state’s “flush tax” that also is designed to protect the bay, even though half of the county drains into the Gulf of Mexico.

A possibility exists that the “rain tax” may be modified, but that probably can’t happen until the legislature meets again next year.

“Rain tax” fees would have a serious impact on residents, businesses, churches and others for whom no exemptions were established.

Car import facilities at the Port of Baltimore may have to pay $400,000 a year and a church in Clarksville estimates its annual cost at $30,000.

Another old saying holds that, “Into each life, a little rain must fall.”

For people in the counties and Baltimore City who now face a “rain tax,” even that has become an expensive proposition.