Whether it be in the form of stormwater projects or farming regulations, some Carroll County politicians have consistently shown disdain for state-mandated environmental efforts meant to protect the Chesapeake Bay. Recently, the county was able to work out a deal with the state to essentially dodge implementing a new stormwater management tax, dubbed by critics as the "rain tax,' by agreeing to take the money from elsewhere in the county budget to pay the cost.
The state, however, planned further regulations for the years to come that could cost local governments millions more dollars. Business owners and residents could face rising taxes and fees as well.
Five Republicans are running for House of Delegates in District 4, and voters can select three candidates in the June 24 primary to move on to the November general election. One Democrat is running unopposed.
Five are vying to become a District 9A delegate with two remaining on the November ballot. The two Democrats will automatically move on to the general election.
Two Republicans are running for the state Senate District 4 seat. One will move on to the general election, and face the one Democrat running for the seat. One Republican is running unopposed for state Senate in District 9 and will face one of the two Democrats vying for the spot in the November election.
We asked the candidates: Carroll County government, the county's eight municipalities, farmers and businesses have faced — or are expected to face — numerous state environmental mandates. Many of the requirements are meant to protect the Chesapeake Bay. What is your view of these mandates? Do you agree with them? If not, what is your plan in relation to them?
House of Delegates District 4 Republicans
Kathy Afzali: I have consistently voted against every one of those mandates and will continue to fight against the O'Malley/Brown EPA on steroids mentality that permeates Annapolis. We all want a clean bay, but must recognize the responsibility doesn't lie with Carroll County and on the backs of Carroll County taxpayers. I represent so many farmers and they have had to bend so much that they are about the break. They can't give any more, nor should they have to.
Barrie Ciliberti: Did not respond to multiple calls and emails.
Wendi Peters: I recognize the importance of the Chesapeake Bay and its value as a natural resource. It is essential that we have a balance between preserving natural resources and maintaining a healthy, vibrant environment for business and agriculture to thrive. We must only promote cost-effective programs that achieve results. It is also important that the taxes and fees collected under the guise of "Bay Restoration" are not raided for other purposes.
Kelly Schulz: I believe that we should do no harm to the Chesapeake Bay or to our environment. However, our farming community, local governments and businesses have been harmed by regulatory burdens that have made it difficult to continue to farm in Maryland. During the debate on the Stormwater management legislation (a.k.a. rain tax), I led the fight from Western Maryland on the inequity of the process. I have worked tirelessly to fully understand the complexities of the issue and have been very outspoken about the county residents paying additional taxes for a proposal that has of yet not proven to be beneficial. I am hopeful that a new administration in Annapolis will be open to the conversation to repeal the current law while examining other meaningful options that do no harm to our municipalities, farmers or businesses.
David Vogt III: I firmly believe that, as stewards of the earth, we do have a responsibility to be environmentally-conscious, but that doesn't mean that we should raise taxes, increase regulations and harm our economy in the process. Recent tax hikes and regulations threaten to unduly burden our farmers, small businesses and consumers. I will never support legislation that does such a thing. Any legislation regarding environmental protection should be a common-sense approach. Laws that increase regulations, hike taxes and grow the size of government are not common-sense approaches.
House of Delegates District 4 Democrat
Gene Stanton: I agree that we need to protect our environment, but I don't agree that raising taxes on small and midsize businesses in Carroll County is the way to solve issues caused by years of neglect at the state level. I believe that the companies that have polluted the Chesapeake should be the ones that pay to clean it up.
Senate District 4 Republicans
David Brinkley: For far too long, Maryland environmentalists have used the argument that punitive measures, hurting farmers, small businesses and even homeowners, are necessary to address the long term health of the Chesapeake Bay. The truth is that while we do need to take steps to make our Bay waters cleaner, punishing Marylanders while surrounding jurisdictions ignore their responsibility is not the answer. I support a balanced approach, mixing some common sense regulations with incentives for agriculture and industry. Unfortunately, the environmental movement is more religion and not based on scientific finding; Carroll County is harmed by regulations and policies (rain tax, septic tank regulations, etc) driven more by Annapolis' quest to control land use. This power is better left to the local government's discretion.
Michael Hough: Farm regulations are being created by bureaucrats in Annapolis who do not understand how a farm operates and do not seem to care about the unintended consequences of their regulations. I have fought against these taxes and regulations, because it is unfair for Western Maryland farmers to be punished, when the majority of bay pollution is coming from states to the north. I am opposed to the state's nutrient management program, it adds extra burdens and financial strains on farmers.
Senate District 4 Democrat
Dan Rupli: I am not completely familiar with all of the mandates that you referenced. I am supportive of any serious effort to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, which is a state and national treasure, but would insist that the financial burden of doing so be assumed by state and national governments, and not on the backs of local jurisdictions, small businesses or family farmers.
House of Delegates District 9A Republicans
Christopher Bouchat: Disagree with how it is being administered. The real polluter of the bay is Pennsylvania and all these taxes do nothing substantial to stop the cause, PA. Sue PA is a good start.
Trent Kittleman: One of the things I have always admired about Carroll County government is its willingness to stand up for its residents, even in the face of state mandates. For instance, Carroll County commissioners responded to the state-mandated "rain tax" by declining to implement a new fee, feeling, as Phil Hager, director of Carroll's Department of Land Use, planning and Development said, "We did not need this law to motivate us to do storm water's management. We have one of the best programs in the state and we are pursuing, and are on track, to achieve all ... requirements." Ultimately, the state accepted a modified proposal from Carroll which would create the required fund with a portion of its general tax revenue, rather than levying additional fees or tax rate increases for residents. In answer to the questions asked above, I believe that Carroll's approach of negotiating with the state works best.
Kyle Lorton: Government should focus on doing that which the private sector can't do. For instance, we need the federal government to defend America from its enemies abroad, and we need local government to police our streets. When government acts it ought to be transparent, effective and efficient. It should get the job done and not waste taxpayer money.
Warren Miller: I have a record of voting against mandates that harm farmers, municipalities and businesses, much of the money that is purportedly raised for the Bay is taken by the Governor and Democratic members of the General Assembly and is used for other purposes.
Frank Mirabile: Repeal the rain tax mandate in totality or segmented. The Bay is a prime natural resource and it's our goal to reduce negative pressures on the Bay. However, efforts to manage the Bay pragmatically have been subverted by radical environmental activism, turning "stewardship" into a marketing tool used to attack personal property rights. The rain tax as well and recent extreme nutrient management requirements are examples of unfounded and burdensome state mandated regulations causing unnecessary financial hardships for Carroll County businesses, residents, farmers and home builders. Computer models used as justification have not been calibrated to Maryland's soils or specific climate. Being a good steward of our limited financial resources, as well as protecting property rights, is just as important as being a good steward of the environment. Local government and soil districts have a proven history of instituting effective BMPs addressing environmental issues over agenda driven state bureaucracy.
House of Delegates District 9A Democrats
Walter Carson: We all love the Chesapeake Bay; and those who impact the Bay directly and significantly should bear their fair share of any remedial programs designed to save the Bay. To date, however, the state environmental mandates have been largely misguided and wrong-headed. They are, in part, tax increases under a different name. They burden and target the wrong communities. And the mandates do little to solve the problem or protect the Bay. The "rain tax" is a classic example of a failed mandate. Generally, I do not favor mandates. I would reverse the "rain tax" and pursue different programs to protect the Bay.
James Morrow: It is too simplistic to state you oppose such mandates. They exist and are unlikely to be removed. No one wants over-regulation, but no one wants polluted water either. I would support looking to those areas where they appear to unfairly impact some citizens, most particularly family farmers. Most likely to pass might be tax incentives to reduce this tax where such farmers can show actions, such as organic farming or less polluting methods are used that justify a deduction. Such a solution might actually pass.
Senate District 9 Republican
Gail Bates: I believe the mandates (both EPA and Maryland) are an overreach of the federal government and a mandate on local government, unsupported by need. I support Carroll County's challenge to the taxing mandate and am pleased at their success.
Senate District 9 Democrats
Ryan Frederic: Many of these mandates are responses to EPA requirements, including those that the stormwater management fee was passed to address. So the question to the state of Maryland isn't really "if" but "how" we will satisfy those requirements. Given that Maryland already ranks 43rd in overall business climate, primarily due to our current tax environment, I'm concerned that inventing a new tax compounds that problem. I also believe it is unfair to target large landowners with the burden of these new mandates. Farming has been an intrinsic part of Maryland's economy for hundreds of years. Asking them to shoulder so much of this burden is simply not fair. However, I believe we have a responsibility to protect the Chesapeake Bay, which should be shared by our neighboring states as well. The objective of this legislation is good, but we need to continue working on better solutions to achieve the objective.
Daniel Medinger: I can't answer for "numerous mandates" that the county is expected to face, but I can say this: Those who say that we are faced with a choice between the environment or the economy are doing a disservice to our community. We are not faced with an either-or choice, as your question suggests. The Chesapeake Bay is an economic engine for our state. In 2014 we have a challenge to harmonize our lifestyle with the environment. We can do this successfully. Good stewardship of land, water and air is in the best interests of all. As for mandates, I would suggest that we focus on outcomes rather than means. This will provide local control and diversity of efforts but the goal should remain the same.