State lawmakers should not put off revisions to a stormwater runoff fee that has raised concerns in the jurisdictions where it has been implemented.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller told The (Annapolis) Capital that he agrees changes in the 2012 law were needed, but, he added, "I think it's politically not going to happen."
The law mandated that the state's 10 largest jurisdictions, including Carroll, adopt a fee structure to help pay for stormwater projects aimed at reducing pollution going into the bay. The trouble with the law, however, was that it left it up to those individual jurisdictions to decide what it would charge businesses and residents. Some counties, such as Anne Arundel, adopted a fee of about $85 for most single-family homes. It also ultimately decided to lower fees to $1 for nonprofits.
Other jurisdictions adopted different fee schedules, and Carroll's commissioners said they wouldn't adopt any fee, instead using money already on hand to pay for stormwater projects.
Fee structures are based on the amount of impervious surface on a property. Businesses that include big parking lots could be impacted heavily. Runoff from these surfaces increases pollution which ultimately makes its way into the bay. Opponents have called the stormwater fee the "rain tax," much like when Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr.'s administration imposed a fee to help pay for wastewater treatment facilities and upgrades and opponents dubbed it the "flush tax."
Catchy names are cute and easily remembered once they catch on, but the reasoning behind Ehrlich's tax, O'Malley's tax or other taxes aimed at putting money into environmental projects goes much deeper.
We need to protect our environment, but there are differing views on what exactly that should translate into. The controversies surrounding implementation of the stormwater runoff tax have been well-documented, and lawmakers from most of the areas impacted have expressed a desire to have the legislature take another look at the law.
In that environment, when a law has generated such widespread concern, it is unacceptable for lawmakers to put off looking at changes or addressing those concerns.
A commitee hearing scheduled for this week was rescheduled for next week because of the snow. Folks on both sides of the issue are already lining up to get their opportunity to speak about why the tax is necessary, why it needs to be changed or why it should be repealed.
It may be an election year, but our elected officials need to put their personal political futures aside and, for once, do what is in the best interest of residents.