The legislature's last minute passage of a bill killing the much-hated "rain tax" couldn't have come at a better time as April showers continue in the forecast and it looks like we are in for a wet spring and, subsequently, potentially astronomical bills to taxpayers who otherwise would have had to deal with the costs associated with the precipitation.
Well, not really.
There never was a "rain tax." That was simply a term coined by opponents to a tax that the state's 10 largest jurisdictions were supposed to levy to help pay for stormwater management projects mandated by the state and federal government.
Most jurisdictions already were paying for the requirements through their general fund. Carroll's previous board of commissioners objected to having a new tax because, they said, it wasn't needed. The costs were being taken care of. Other jurisdictions enacted token taxes, while still others took the opportunity to levy bigger taxes on residents.
Earlier this year Annapolis-based OpinionWorks conducted a poll for the Clean Water, Healthy Families coalition. About half of those polled thought the rain that fell on their roof or property was being taxed. Score one for the spreaders of misinformation.
When the pollsters changed the question to ask about cleaning up pollution and stormwater management – you know, what the tax was actually all about – a majority supported it.
People are generally more supportive of stormwater management fees and less supportive of a rain tax, even though the two are the same thing. The "repeal" of the rain tax enacted by the legislature is similarly misleading because jurisdictions still have to pay for the state and federally mandated projects, except now if they don't enact a tax they also have to submit a plan to the state Department of the Environment detailing how they are planning on paying for stormwater management.
Gov. Larry Hogan wanted an outright repeal with no strings. The legislature decided on adding the requirement about submitting a plan to the state. So even the repeal that wasn't a repeal really wasn't a repeal. Confused?
In a nutshell: About the only thing that changed is that all the lawmakers who have been taking heat from people who bought in to the lie that rainfall on their property was being taxed can now point to their vote repealing the measure, even though the rain was never being taxed and local governments are still going to have to continue to pay for stormwater remediation projects. and now they have to submit a plan to the state telling them how they are going to do that.
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So three cheers for the legislature. The rain tax is dead. Long live stormwater remediation fees.