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Arundel Republicans trade barbs over stormwater fee

Anne Arundel County Republicans are trading barbs over the county's new stormwater fee.

Del. Steve Schuh of Gibson Island, who is running for county executive, and Del. Nic Kipke, the new House minority leader from Pasadena, wrote to County Executive Laura Neuman and County Council Chairman Jerry Walker on Friday, urging them to delay collecting the stormwater fee.

"The laws passed by the Council, which will result in higher bills sent to taxpayers on July 1, have several major flaws that must be addressed," Schuh and Kipke wrote.

They suggested lowering the fees, increasing credits for environmentally friendly practices and decreasing the number of employees who will be hired for the county's stormwater program.

"We need to stop this train and start over again," they wrote.

Walker immediately responded with a statement of his own, blasting Schuh for voting for the state law that mandates the fees in the first place.

"This letter from Delegate Schuh is disingenuous as it represents nothing more than a political maneuver to cover his tracks after voting for HB 987 that mandated Anne Arundel to pass the rain tax," Walker wrote. "The fallout of his vote in favor of the rain tax is hurting his bid for County Executive among base Republicans so he's attempting to cover his tracks."

Schuh voted for the state bill mandating the stormwater fees in 2012. Schuh pointed out, however, that the state law didn't set how much the fees would be -- it was the County Council that decided the details. Kipke initially supported the bill, but voted against it during the final roll call.

"We gave the keys to the kids and they drove the car into a ditch," Schuh said in an interview Friday. "The state gave authority to the counties and we expected it to be exercised responsibly and in this case, it was not."

Neuman initially responded with a post on Twitter: "Hilarious! Ltr from Del Schuh asking CC to roll back rain tax, he must have forgotten HE voted to make rain tax MANDATORY!"

Later, she issued a statement that read in part: "If Delegate Schuh wants to be helpful, he should admit he voted for legislation that burdens the taxpayers of Anne Arundel County and convince Gov. O'Malley to call a special session of the General Assembly to fix this flawed legislation."

Neuman vetoed the stormwater fees approved by the County Council this spring. Council members immediately overrode her veto and made a series of changes to the fees in May and June, including lowering the fees for some rural homeowners and putting a lower cap on stormwater fees for businesses.

Anne Arundel, several other counties and Baltimore City are required by state law to collect fees to pay for projects that reduce polluted stormwater runoff that harms rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. The fees must be in place by July 1.

Anne Arundel's fees will be $34, $85 or $170 for residential homeowners, depending on the type of house they own. Businesses are charged based on the amount of impervious surfaces, such as driveways and rooftops, on their property. There are discounts for nonprofit groups, churches and private schools.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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