Friday, April 17, 2015

The 'Rain Tax' Dance Continues in Baltimore

"Rain Tax" Debate Not Going Away In Baltimore County
The General Assembly’s repeal of the storm water remediation fee requirement has rekindled the debate over the so-called “rain tax” in Baltimore County. Republicans on the County Council are vowing to push to repeal the county’s fee.

“We’ll go back as a council and see if we can go to work on eliminating this fee from, especially from our business community,” said Todd Crandell, one of three Republicans on the council. But County Executive Kevin Kamenetz says talk of repeal is a “phony issue,” because the county would still have to meet its federally mandated obligation to pay for projects to reduce storm water runoff that pollutes the Chesapeake Bay.
. . .
Last month, at Kamenetz’s request, the council rolled back the fee by about a third. But a few weeks later, the executive announced water and sewer rates would be going up to pay for upgrades to an aging system plagued with water main breaks and sewage overflows. Councilman Crandell questioned the timing of those two announcements. “I think it’s a bit disingenuous to offer a one third cut in a rain tax and then a month later hike water and sewage fees by 15 percent,” he said. Council Chairwoman Cathy Bevins, a Democrat, says that while the Council will reconsider the storm water remediation fee, the projects that fee is paying for are making a difference.
I'm agnostic on whether or not Baltimore should be using a 'rain tax' (tax on impervious surfaces) to fund its stormwater fixes. That's a job for Baltimore voters and politicians to determine. But at least, with the state mandate for the 'rain tax' repealed, they have the choice from where to take the money. Will they choose a minimally invasive, fair way? Stay tuned.

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