Environmental advocates say opposition to the stormwater fee has become so intense that lawmakers who voted for it have asked for help explaining its benefits to constituents.
"We have legislators calling, saying, 'I'm worried about this,'" said Brent Bolin, director of the Choose Clean Water Maryland program at the state's League of Conservation Voters.
Del. Maggie L. McIntosh, who chairs the Environmental Matters Committee, recently told a crowd of environmentalists that "whether you call it the stormwater fee or the rain tax, the issue is going to be front and center during the next session."
McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat, added, "We must play defense. We must form a team united like no other."
Leaders in Maryland's business community plan to release their legislative goals in December, and many expect them to include a call for tax relief — particularly a cut in the corporate income tax rate.
More than a year ago, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce formed a Competitiveness Coalition of more than 50 business groups in the hope that the group could pitch a comprehensive plan to a new governor, said Mathew J. Palmer, the organization's vice president of governmental affairs.
Already, Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller have made comments suggesting support for tax policy changes to improve the state's business climate.
"The business of the state needs to be about business," said Miller, a Prince George's County Democrat who has floated the idea of cutting the corporate income tax rate. He has also suggested that "there needs to be an adjustment" to inheritance taxes.
Busch formed a team of lawmakers to investigate what could be done to help the business community, and potential solutions include cutting taxes or offering tax breaks.
"The whole premise is to enhance jobs," the Anne Arundel Democrat said. "Whether it's a tax credit or a tax relief, it would be something that would help businesses."
Legislative analysts say reducing the income tax rate by a single percentage point would require $160 million worth of cuts unless the state came up with another revenue source.
Any push to cut taxes would come over the objections of the governor, who cannot run for re-election in 2014 because of term limits and is entering his final legislative session. O'Malley said he doesn't think Maryland can afford tax cuts.
"There's always a certain temptation and allure, a certain attraction to cutting taxes to make everybody feel good and make everybody look good," the governor said. "But in the long run, the math catches up to you."