Bill Impeding Water Bill Collection Defeated on Senate Floor

Senate Bill 158 was introduced to preclude local governments from using the tax sale process to collect unpaid water and sewer bills. MACo opposed the bill, raising concerns that without at least the potential for tax sale, collections would become less effective and would likely drive rates up for other system users. From MACo’s testimony on the bill:

[T]he fair application of public taxes and charges necessitates that these be paid by all taxpayers – sporadic or uneven implementation simply permits some to avoid paying while the vast majority bears their fair share of the costs of public services.

The tax sale process, or rather the potential for a property to go to tax sale, presents a much-needed device to ensure that property owners remit payment for their fair share of taxes and charges connected to public services. SB 158 removes this leverage, and undoubtedly would create many more deficient accounts for water and sewer bills for lack of enforcement – leading to increased rates on citizens who properly pay.

SB 158 undermines local government’s most effective collection tool for public taxes and charges, and would lead to greater delinquency and default on public water and sewer bills. For this reason, MACo OPPOSES SB 158 and urges an UNFAVORABLE report.

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, after several discussions without conclusion, finally voted an amended bill out to the Senate floor, where it met with resistance, and ultimately a wave of local “opt out” amendments. On the Senate floor today (the fourth day of floor debate on the subject), on a motion by Senator Haines, the bill was “postponed indefinitely” on a 24-23 vote, effectively defeating the legislation.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties

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