The ‘Rain Tax’ in Maryland

rainapril2013_320x245Consider all the ways we’re taxed. When we’re born (birth certificate), when we die (death certificate), when we make money (income tax), when we spend money (sales tax), when we own property (property tax), when we sell property (capital gains tax), when we go to a concert or ball game (amusement tax), when we own a vehicle (license, registration, tolls, gas tax) and special taxes on cell phones, tobacco, alcohol, energy, etc. Then, when we die, they tax our income all over again (death tax). Heck, they even tax our bowel movements (flush tax).

But if you thought they ran out of ways to tax us you badly misjudged our lawmakers’ creativity. Get ready for their newest invention, the rain tax. Here’s what’s going on:

In 2010 the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency ordered Maryland to reduce stormwater runoff into the Chesapeake Bay so that nitrogen levels fall 22 percent and phosphorus falls 15 percent from current amounts. The price tag: $14.8 billion.

And where do we get the $14.8 billion? By taxing so-called “impervious surfaces,” anything that prevents rain water from seeping into the earth (roofs, driveways, patios, sidewalks, etc.) thereby causing stormwater run off. In other words, a rain tax.

And who levies this new rain tax? Witness how taxation, like rain, trickles down through the various pervious levels of government until it reaches the impervious level — me and you.

The EPA ordered Maryland to raise the money (an unfunded mandate), Maryland ordered its 10 largest counties to raise the money (another unfunded mandate) and, now, each of those counties is putting a local rain tax in place by July 1.

So, if you live in Montgomery, Prince George’s, Howard, Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford, Charles, Frederick, Baltimore counties or Baltimore city, you’ll be paying a rain tax on your next property tax bill.

Well, you ask, “How on earth can the government know how much impervious surface I own?” Answer: It’s not on earth, it’s in the sky. Thanks to satellite imagery and geographic information systems, Big Brother can measure your roof and driveway (and you thought drones were only used for killing terrorists).

OK, once the counties raise this money, how is it spent? The state law is kind of squishy. It can be spent to build and maintain stream and wetland restoration projects. And, of course, a lot of it will go to “monitoring, inspection, enforcement, review of stormwater management plans and permit applications and mapping of impervious surfaces.” In other words, hiring more bureaucrats to administer the rain tax program.

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