Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"Rain Tax" Repealed, Sort Of

Still a ‘rain tax’ by any other name?
. . . one closely watched issue involved Maryland’s stormwater law — SB 863. Initially presented as the fulfillment of a campaign promise by Hogan to repeal the state’s so-called “rain tax,” in the end this legislation was supported by the Clean Water, Healthy Families coalition, which includes the following environmental groups: Maryland League of Conservation Voters, Blue Water Baltimore, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Sierra Club’s Maryland chapter.

These groups lent their support to what amounted to a revision of the rain tax that strengthens the state’s pollution-fighting position by focusing on reducing runoff and giving affected local jurisdictions . . . greater flexibility in how to fund the initiatives needed to reach goals.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation tweeted this: “We were holding our breath. The stormwater bill is now a remarkable #ChesBay victory. What a turnaround.”

Meanwhile, the governor said this: “We did not get everything we wanted and the legislature did not get everything it wanted, but Marylanders will benefit from the passage of the repeal of the rain tax.”
How did we manage to make everyone so happy and still repeal the "rain tax?"
SB 863 was originally filed as a repeal of the rain tax, and it does eliminate the mandate for jurisdictions to collect a specific fee under certain conditions by changing the word “will” to “may.” But elsewhere, it changes the word “may” to “will” to require each jurisdiction to establish a fund to pay for efforts to reach the goal, and it changes reporting requirements to increase accountability. It also imposes stiff fines for failing to meet funding requirements.

Technically, the rain tax was indeed repealed, yet its replacement should get us to roughly the same place. Is it really possible we have emerged with a stronger law that allows both opponents and supporters of the original rain tax to claim victory?
You mean, local politicians actually deciding what to tax and how much? An idea so novel it just might work. Even in Maryland.

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