The so-called “rain tax,” a state-mandated fee to raise money and help alleviate Chesapeake Bay pollution, drew a number of different responses from county candidates this week, depending on whom our reporter asked. But while they’re correct to say this is an issue for their campaign, even if most of them didn’t float any detailed ways to deal with it.

We’d like some better responses than the ones we got from the many candidates polled by The News-Post for their view of this state mandate. Many took to political dithering, saying, disappointingly, they weren’t familiar enough to comment or hadn’t researched the issue. That’s weak sauce right there, less than two month before the election. On the other hand, bringing a lawsuit against the state, as candidates Billy Shreve, Tony Chmelik and Kirby Delauter suggested, is just one more way to pour taxpayer money down a deep dark legal hole.

The controversy surrounding this mandate — its actual name is the Stormwater Remediation Fee — started even before its 2012 passage by the Maryland General Assembly. The legislation applies to the heaviest developed jurisdictions in Maryland. Those nine counties and Baltimore City contribute the greatest proportion of bay pollution due to stormwater runoff, the rainfall that drains from impervious surfaces, like roofs, sidewalks, driveways and parking lots, into the state’s waterways, carrying with it the nitrogen and phosphorous that is so detrimental to the bay’s ecology.

The implementation of the rain tax was itself driven by a federal mandate under the Clean Water Act, with the Environmental Protection Agency requiring each state in the watershed to develop plans to keep bay pollution to a minimum.

While we recognize the critical urgency of protecting that watershed, Maryland’s lawmakers, as usual, rolled out an all-too aggressive plan with a multi-million dollar price tag that carried the following message to affected counties: “We don’t care how you do it, just make sure you pay.”

Thus, without guidance or oversight, the affected counties all enacted wildly different fees on their residents— or not, in some cases.

Frederick County’s Board of County Commissioners balked, then rebelled, setting the fee at 1 cent, a level that has raised a grand $490 from July 2013 to mid-June. This wasn’t reasonable, nor was it realistic. But then again, neither is the $1.88 billion it could cost the county to meet those state-mandated cleanup targets by 2025. The county’s five-year stormwater permit could cost a whopping $142.3 million. That’s the equivalent of five new elementary schools, $28.5 million a year, or about $155 a year for every man and woman in the county who’s over 18.

We prefer some form of compromise that recognizes equitably the amount Frederick County plays in bay pollution while not making its taxpayers shoulder an unreasonable amount of the burden. And we’d urge the candidates to get to know the details of the rain tax, because this will be an important part of their agenda, should they be elected to the County Council. Then there won’t be any excuses for not having done their homework.

 

(11) comments

FrederickVeteran

Republican business catering to democratic consumers have turned the Chesapeake Bay into a septic tank. Neither group has shown a real financial commitment to restore the Bay back to a semblance of it's once majestic self. [sad]

jill king

I am not shocked that not one candidate besides the republicans knew what the key word here is. They are correct in looking to take this to court. Also it is embarrassing how long this has been an issue and many democrat candidates were speechless.

jill king

Your right, the suit was dropped by the municipalities because of the Blaine Young Board. Montevue/ Citizens is a money pit, also recurring debt created by the Gardner Board for citizens to pay millions for when not one person can be denied care if medically necessary.

jerseygrl42

this tax is typical of the hypocrisy the citizens of Frederick and the state have suffered under omalley and brown....so omalley accepts $100K from Covanta the trash burning folks in dickerson and many other places, and then declares burning tires and trash to be Tier One Green , notwithstanding the fact that the Frederick garbage burner will emit 7 million lbs of toxic particulate up the 270' stack every year and 400,000 gallons of toxic waste water every day into the Bay ...and then he wants the taxpayers to spend hundreds of millions to clean it up...talk about useless MT suits ...its ALL about the MONEY.......BIG BROOM IN NOV.

Dwasserba

I guess they're gambling on global warming - maybe it won't rain.
Did anyone else gag reading the second last paragraph?

peachow

No, Jill, that one was dropped by the county. More like the ones we have now, like the Citizens/Montevue suit, lawsuits by former county employees who were terminated by this BOCC, lawsuits over land use issues, etc. I think if you did a side by side comparison of the amount incurred by lawsuits between the Young board and the Gardner board, the current BOCC would win the "lawsuits are expensive" prize.

jill king

Lawsuits are expensive? You mean like the ones the municipalities waged against the Gardner Board, when she tried to usurp power over their domain?

matts853

So in your myopic mind Jill, 2 wrongs make a right? And please explain how Jan "usurped" power over their "domain"? What is the status of those lawsuits?

Sallyforth

Jan Gardner was the ONLY candidate that seemed to understand the problem and suggested how to go about dealing with the issue. I am extremely disappointed in the other democrats that hemmed and hawed when asked where they stood on the issue.

FrederickFan

There was one candidate who had done her homework, who did understand the details.

The FNP article clearly showed that Jan Gardner, candidate for County Executive, had an excellent understanding of what was at stake, and she clearly understood how the federal and state mandates were coming, and that suing Maryland was a complete waste of time and taxpayer money.

dcg326

Oh no more waste.

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