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(BLOG) Stone's Corner: A Rain Tax Patch

Maryland General Assembly leaders say the so-called "rain tax" will not be repealed.

Maryland State Sen. Norman Stone. Patch file photo
Maryland State Sen. Norman Stone. Patch file photo

By State Sen. Norman Stone

The President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of the Maryland General Assembly have made it clear that the so-called “rain tax” will not be repealed this session.  In response to this reality, in an effort to mitigate the undue burden the new taxes place on local businesses, and residents around the state, I have introduced Senate Bill 359, which clarifies that gravel is not impervious, and should not be taxed as if it was.  We feel this is just one common sense improvement to a well-intentioned, but poorly enacted law.  

The Stormwater Management Fee, or the “Rain-Tax” as it has been more commonly referred to, is intended to encourage the use of pervious surfaces that allow water to infiltrate into the soil to reduce stormwater runoff into the Bay.  As you are probably aware, I voted against the tax in 2012, and to delay implementation last year, because I was concerned about an unfunded Federal mandate and the heavy burden placed on already financially strapped Maryland citizens and business owners.  Unfortunately, my initial concerns did not prepare me for the news that several modest commercial property owners have been hit with stormwater fees in excess of $10,000 even though the property contained areas covered by gravel.  Hasn’t it already been decided that gravel is pervious?

Even though each county has the authority to establish the fees as they wish under the state law, some counties have been hit harder than others.   It is my opinion that the Maryland General Assembly should insist on some consistency as to what is classified as a pervious surface.  As you may already know, Baltimore County has determined that gravel is impervious in nearly all circumstances.  

Those who will be subject to these fees in many cases cannot afford them, and when gravel is included as impervious, is a disincentive to the appropriate use of this obvious substitute pervious surface.  Before the enactment of the “rain tax,” gravel was used specifically in many instances because it was considered pervious.

To improve the fragmented fee structures under the law, it has been suggested by the President of the Maryland Senate that there be more consistency between jurisdictions.  Some businesses and  residents in jurisdictions around the state are paying more than their share, presumably because of one glaring inconsistency, and that taxing gravel as impervious.  

Gravel, by its nature, allows water to trickle down if it is laid on top of pervious soil.  Our bill, if enacted, will simply state that gravel is pervious if placed on a pervious surface and therefore not subject to the tax.  Senate Bill 359 is good for the resident, it is good for business and it is good common sense for the state of Maryland as a whole to have basic consistency in the fee structure state-wide.

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