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Stormwater fees amount to taxation without representation

I received my commercial property tax bill and cleverly concealed with no explanation was the much anticipated "rain tax" section of the bill. I knew it was going to be ugly, and so it was.

I had already familiarized myself with the details. It was ironic that it showed up just a couple of days before the Fourth of July, the anniversary commemorating the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. I was reminded of the Boston Tea Party, when patriots threw tea into Boston Harbor to protest the king's taxation without representation.

So just where is there any representation for homeowners, commercial property owners and non-profits regarding the onerous rain tax? It is a tax that exists as a result of a lawsuit brought by a relatively small environmental group, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, suing a regulation friendly Environmental Protection Agency to force a very small portion of the population to pay an excessive tax for questionable goals.

Here's the history as I see it.

First, the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972 by politicians long gone. Then the Chesapeake Bay Foundation sued EPA and the parties settle out of court agreeing to require Maryland to spend $14.8 billion until the plan is fully implemented in 2025. The public has no say in the matter.

Next, the state decides it isn't responsible for this huge outlay so lawmakers huddle on the last night of the 2013 session and decide to have the 10 largest counties bear the full cost. Of course, it was obvious they needed the votes from the other 14 jurisdictions, so they offered those counties a waiver for their vote.

There was no question that the administration and Democrats in the House and Senate were as pleased as they could be with the rain tax and the myriad of other taxes foisted on the electorate. The went home giddy that night. What a successful session it was. But I digress.

The 10 counties each draw up their own plans of taxation and implementation and levy probably the most oppressive tax burdens I have ever seen in my 62 years — and I follow such things closely. In Baltimore County alone the revenue will amount to over $33 million a year, with a yearly state total of $486 million. All of us will pay either directly or indirectly.

For the record I consider myself an environmental advocate, and I understand we have to address the problem. But why is it not being addressed in the other five states and the 14 other Maryland counties whose rain water flows into the Chesapeake Bay? The pain could have been spread around a lot more fairly.

If this doesn't create a tax revolt among Maryland taxpayers nothing will. I plan to protest the amount I have to pay on my commercial property and I encourage others to do so.

David P. Miller, Phoenix

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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