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City's 'rain tax' is a shell game to cover the unsustainable structural deficit

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake

Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has proposed to use a substantial portion of stormwater fee revenues — the "rain tax" — to lower the city's overwhelmingly high property tax ("Faceoff over city water fee plan," May 6).

The mayor's relentless assaults on city residents in an attempt to generate ever more tax revenue to cover the major cause of its financial problems — namely its expenditure of 20 percent of revenues on retirees — are not even thinly veiled anymore.

The city's large tax and fee increases, including speed cameras, trash fees and now the rain tax, have been enacted in an attempt to lower the property tax without a corresponding reduction in city expenditures and are nothing more than a shell game.

The discussion of stormwater fees centers around the political mandate that we'll solve the water quality problem in the Chesapeake Bay by collecting more taxes. What is missing from the discussion is what the government actually plans to do to clean up the water.

It isn't as if municipalities haven't been managing the problem of stormwater runoff for the last 30 years. Sadly, there isn't much new with handling it today. One article stated that a new idea was to create marshland to help mitigate pollutants in stormwater runoff. Does anyone really think there are going to be large, newly created marshlands in densely populated urban areas like Baltimore City?

It's difficult to rationally justify bogus new charges to taxpayers — and thus there hasn't been any substantive effort to do so by politicians.

Ultimately the rain tax in Baltimore City is just part of a political shell game and will have little effect in cleaning up the bay, where under-performing sewage treatment plants and industrial discharge are as big a problem as stormwater runoff.

The mayor seems unwilling to tackle the city's big problem, namely a restructuring of the unsustainable level of current pension expense. Instead she is content to play a game of lowering property tax rates and increasing every other conceivable source of revenue.

Gary Moyer, Baltimore

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