The Maryland General Assembly is a petty, petty place. And at first blush, the short-term goals of the Board of County Commissioners may seem admirable. By passing a 1-cent tax rate, three of the five commissioners have thumbed their nose at the federal- and state-mandated stormwater remediation fees that must be in place by July 1 — the so-called “rain tax.”

And it sure feels good telling the state, which hasn’t found a tax yet it doesn’t love, to take a long walk off a short pier, as Commissioners President Blaine Young indicated he’d like to do in a recent story, where he referenced his controversial cussing out of a teenage referee at a youth basketball match.

“I apologized for my tantrum I threw with the referee,” Young said, “but I can tell you right now, my words to that referee would be the same words I’d give to the governor.”

Setting the rate at 1 cent, the minimum possible to comply, may avoid penalties for noncompliance for now, but if Frederick County is the only rebel among the 10 jurisdictions required by the state to impose these fees, we wonder if there’s not a price for going it alone.

Baltimore city and Harford, Montgomery, Anne Arundel, Howard and Baltimore counties have rate structures in place spanning a wide spectrum of cost, from $144 in Baltimore city to $39 in Baltimore County for residential. Nearly all have a component that charges per square foot of impervious surface. Charles, Prince George’s and Carroll counties have yet to enact their legislation.

The whole tax is driven by a $14.8 billion mandate from the Environmental Protection Agency on states abutting the Chesapeake Bay.

We don’t like it, as we’ve editorialized before. While we appreciate that one of the goals is to delay having to impose this tax until state lawmakers return to session in January 2014, when they’ve signaled they may tweak the legislation, we further wonder if they might use that opportunity to make an example of us.

As we said above, the General Assembly can be petty with counties (especially the red-tinged ones) that buck the system and even with ones who don’t (remember when lawmakers pushed the cost of teacher pensions onto the local jurisdictions?). We’d urge the county to at least consider a Plan B here. Eventually, the cost of upgrading stormwater treatment will fall on the taxpayers, whether these fees are in place or are not.

In any case, this is not the end of the debate. Lawmakers failed at the end of this year’s session to modify the tax and said it’ll be back in 2014. But don’t expect it to be friendlier to taxpayers on the whole — delegates and senators don’t seem as worried about individual constituents as they do about large businesses and nonprofits (e.g., churches).

While the state has largely left it up to each jurisdiction to craft the fee structure as they see fit, there’s nothing to prevent state lawmakers from imposing this tax on the county, especially if egged on by the environmental lobby, which has the state’s Democratic majority by the, ahem, ear.

The commissioners have set us up for a David vs. Goliath showdown, only it’s less likely we’ll get off that one, lucky shot. Trusting the Maryland General Assembly for a solution is a bad gamble.

(33) comments

luvsdigdug

I just don't understand how this is in any way fair, if based on the "impervious surfaces" when folks already are where they are and have chosen their homes or business locations for whatever reasons. Now, they'll be hit with this? If this were in place already, perhaps decisions on location would have been made differently...but now people and businesses that already can't afford to move or sell will be hit with more financial burden, just because of the way their property was designed years ago...What about people who are physically challenged and need one-floor living, which takes a larger "footprint" for a house and perhaps a larger driveway for a van equipped for handicapped? Or a driveway where there was not one before?

I chose my home because I can live on one level if I need to someday and I have no desire to move. Right now I am among the unemployed who are not counted and have health limitations making it hard to find part-time work. I have already cut back on "luxuries" to the extent that I can and still have home access to the internet for job-hunting. No texting or data on the cell phones, etc. (someone previously mentioned cutting back, so I'm just puttin' that out here)

I think this whole thing is stupid and unfair...Frederick County is the largest county, so it has the most "impact" and a simple state tax, not based on impervious surfaces would be more fair..allowing all Frederick County residents to help with the County's impact as part of their luxury of being in this still-beautiful county, the same as others in other counties would be contributing.

Living in Maryland has become more and more expensive, and more and more constricted and restrained.. I will stay as long as I feel there is hope for freedom to return. This is not the state I grew up in, and I know the world changes, but that doesn't mean we have to just go along....

Maybe instead of thumbing our noses, we should be throwing shoes at the Statehouse and the White House..oh, and at the Congress as well...

vmdigioia

Very nicely worded . . .

Frustration mounts, yet our left/liberal legislators seem to have an impervious surface where a brain once occupied . . .

watson4sherlock

I really think what they want us to do is not such a big deal once someone would explain it. Like run your rain spouts into the lawn instead of down the driveway so the water soaks into the ground instead of going down the storm sewer. It's probably a lot of things people already do.

MDA Encourages Homeowners to Protect the Chesapeake Bay by Changing Fertilizer Habits, Complying with New Lawn Fertilizer Law
http://news.maryland.gov/mda/press-release/2013/04/12/mda-encourages-homeowners-to-protect-the-chesapeake-bay-by-changing-fertilizer-habits-complying-with-new-lawn-fertilizer-law/

Quisling

Fairness is not a good arguement. I cant say I agree with this particular proposal but I do recognize that our collective lifestyle is not sustainable, You can't drink a clean glass of fairness, nor can one breath in fresh fairness. Doing nothing and kicking the can down to the next generation is not a good solution. Unfortunately we inhabit the earth after the party is over and we have to clean up the mess. The cake has been eaten and the wine barrels are empty. Perhaps if we Americans were far-sighted enough in the 70s to think about the future we would have solved some of the current enviromental problems we are reluctant to handle. Stealth bombers and Abrams tanks are not the only things that provide us with national security. Clean water is just as important, perhaps even more important.

Comment deleted.
watson4sherlock

I'm thinking they could get a lot of HCG out of the bay.

jerseygrl42

Just another opportunity for mom to get his grimy hands on more of taxpayer money so he can pass it around to his buddies whom he hopes will step up in the next pres election for him, he is the same person who calls burning garbage and tires in Frederick and others "Tier One Green" so as to push along the Wheelabrator and waste authority quest for $3 Billion more of our money while dumping 400K gallons of toxic water into the Bay every day, the Bay he wants us to shell out $1.8 Billion here in Frederick to clean up while the incinerator he supports ( and which will require the importation of 350,000 TONS of garbage/tires to feed the caveman monster) will further poison this waterway...talk about ugly hypocritical politicians, and Cleggett who is running for Fred. mayor is the same character who along with other shameful so-called reps signed a letter to MDE begging them to hurry up and approve the permits...I guess hurry it up before the taxpayers find out whats in store for them...this bunch is further supported by cbf which gives a damned about the environment only if it is politically ok with Annapolis otherwise they don't know anything about anything and thats what they basically told us a couple of years ago when they came to Frederick to shill for doubling the flush tax and adding this insane rain tax....a bunch of folks feeding at the public trough who don't give a hoot about the environment or the taxpayers .....ITS ALL ABOUT THE MONEY!

luvsdigdug

right!

vmdigioia

So, if other counties and legislators seek reprisal against Frederick County, then let us see how brave they are to stick their neck into our area of the woods . . .

See how the IRS misused their position of power?

I70, I270 and I68 are cross roads for leaving the area to go West -- it would a shame if their car were to break down for some reason on their travels . . .

watson4sherlock

I can just see it now... all the lawful gun owners taking up positions around the perimeter of the county. Don't you dare come into this county and try to measure or tax our rain. We're in a drought. We don't have any rain.

ad_s_towel

I'm guessing you're the one with the black hat and bowie knife -- firsties for you!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yj4LnfkdJDM

watson4sherlock

This video has been age-restricted based on our Community Guidelines.

vmdigioia

Incredible Liberal paranoia! Funny thing how the Left will try to dish all type of revenge and hate, yet assume one will weld a firearm against them in retaliation . . .

It is simply unfortunate that a Lib feels fear if they cannot travel, yet they use the fear or power of their bureaucracy to seek revenge on anyone that disagrees . . .

vmdigioia

Herein lies the rub, "The whole tax is driven by a $14.8 billion mandate from the Environmental Protection Agency on states abutting the Chesapeake Bay."

This is wrongheaded thinking, and the unintended consequences are abound.

Funny how any other act of defiance is seen as 'brave and inspiring to our liberal elite'.

Petty? Well then the shoe fits the legislators that passed the law, and MoM for being the complete moron for signing it.

luvsdigdug

What about the states bordering the states that border the bay...eh? They are having an impact too...their water flows through our counties, too.

watson4sherlock

Their all be taxed too.

http://www.epa.gov/chesapeakebaytmdl/

mobilityedge

An articulate argument against the specifics of the law would have gone a lot further in Annapolis than this juvenile, counterproductive act of defiance. (Perhaps we should consider electing reasonable, competent politicians next time instead of firebrands heading for a flameout. Just a thought.)

luvsdigdug

good thought!

fnfn

Sensible FNP editor. Non Sensible BOCC.

josephdavis

While the idea of thumbing our noses at a legislature/governor that have gone off the deep end is good for a chuckle right now, this will bite us all in the collective rear end come next January when all the other jurisdictions are out to punish Frederick for not playing well with others. Having a plan in place is probably a good idea.

watson4sherlock

Sorry the BOCC can't come to the table right now. The chairperson is on HCG and expecting a weight loss.

touscents

Stuckon, You were not clear. Are you suggesting Frederick file a law suit or secede from Maryland? You want Blaine to be king?

stuckon270

Nope - Although I prefer my legislation locally, that is not exactly what I meant. If the STATE legislature feels there is a need for state tax payers to pay for the bay cleanup then let them legislate it through STATE taxes, not loosely defined mandates to the counties. That is the chicken way out. If they need the money for the bay and think its worthwhile take the hit. politically. My beef really is the FNP editorial staff. They state they disagree with the legislation, but they think we should go along to get along with the majority in Annapolis, you know they may punish us for resisting. OK if we want to go that route since Frederick is still majority Republican, I am sure we can count on all the registered Democrats to vote and support whatever Blaine and the BOCC wants, you know because since they have a 4 to 1 majority, going against them may cause you problems down the road, you know should you want a zoning varience or something. Just applying FNP editorial staff logic. Looking forward for all the support for the BOCC.

fnfn

Why support nonsense? It makes sense for the taxing and the infrastructure improvements to both be in the same local area.

Today's FNP said our property taxes went from 93.6 cents to $1.064 just as our assessed values are coming back.

Blaine's nonsense of giving $100 to everyone was just a ploy to try to influence the homes with lower assessed value, that is more likely paying his opposition to change some of their minds.

luvsdigdug

Secede...hmmm. I had that idea awhile back...for Western Maryland to secede. Perhaps it would make more sense to go ahead and give DC statehood as long as they take Montgomery County and Prince Georges County with them as part of the deal. [beam]

Crustybachelor

Young's various tantrums really just make Frederick County seem like a collection of hillbilly boobs to the general assembly. We elected what's in office - so we deserve whatever tax is imposed upon us because we can't clean up our own mess.

formerfcps

Make Blaine Young drink Bay water.

NASCARLOVER

Blaine would be bigger yet, and the bay would be dry...

xroads1213

I like the approach. If they adjust the legislation, we will pay the bare minimum and deliver it at the eleventh hour in a dump truck load of nickles and quarters on the steps of the statehouse..

luvsdigdug

this would be fantastic! maybe just make it all in pennies...

president8444

Lucky no dems on BOCC who just follow like lambs to the party of O'malley and dupes.[beam]

stuckon270

The editors disagree with the mandated tax, yet they seem to suggest we should just go along because there may be some reprisals. I guess it just to bad those framers of the US declaration of independence just didn't pay all those taxes from England, and just fall in line with those who passed them. I mean why make waves. Long live the queen !

Quisling

The colonist were taxed less than the citizens of the newly created United States of America. So many Americans seems to have forgotten yours/my/our history.

watson4sherlock

Americans have never wanted to pay taxes.

To minimize taxes, colonists shipped their worst products to colonial treasurers.

In 1686, in response, the king of England repealed the statute that had given legal validity to quitrent payments in tobacco (though it was restored in 1688).

...a prominent nineteenth-century historian, Richard T. Ely, wrote that “one of the things against which our forefathers in England and in the American colonies contended was not against oppressive taxation, but against the payment of any taxes at all” (emphasis added).

Tax rates varied with wealth. At the close of the seventeenth century, residents of Pennsylvania with real estate and personal assets worth less than £30 were exempt. Adult males worth less than £72 paid a reduced poll tax of 6 shillings.

The first century of the American colonies set a firm low-tax foundation that underpinned the economic freedom of generations of Americans to come.

See http://www.hoover.org/publications/policy-review/article/7558

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