Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Maryland: Follow Any Religion You Want, As Long As It's 'Green'

Back when the "Rain Tax", the tax on impervious surfaces in 10 of Maryland most urban jurisdicitons was being proposed, church leaders noted that churches could be rather hard hit by the tax, seeing as how most churches consist of a building with an impervious roof surrounded by parking lot.  Rather than explicitly exempt churches, the way governmental offices are exempted (would they be so happy to see it if it came out of their agency budgets). Similarly, non-profits are also subject to the rain tax:

To combat this, the O'Malley administration has allowed counties to cobble together a program for churches:

Churches receive stormwater fee discounts by starting ‘green’ ministries, sermons
After months of negotiation with county environmental director Adam Ortiz, the pastors emerged with a rebate deal that will significantly cut the fees if churches adopt programs and equipment that will curb runoff, lessen pollution and help bolster the environment.

So far, about 30 churches have applied. Forestville Redeemer was the first. They are planning to install rain barrels, build rain gardens, plant trees and, perhaps, replace their blacktop with permeable pavement. The government will cover most of the cost. In return, a fee that was estimated at $744 a year will be reduced to “virtually nothing,” Ortiz said.

Thomas and other pastors also have agreed to start “green” ministries to maintain the improvements at their churches, and to preach environmentally focused sermons to educate their congregations.

“What God made was good,” Thomas said Sunday, quoting from the first passage in Genesis. “But it’s us that made it bad.”
A pretty good deal, avoid $744 dollars in taxes, and the only real cost to the church is to  preach the green doctrine. Why shouldn't individual homeowner and NGOs be qualified for similar subsidies? I mean, other than the fact that it would utterly defeat the purpose of the tax,  to satisfy the EPA demands to raise money for stormwater management.

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