House Kills Governor’s Stormwater Fee Repeal Legislation

A March 6 Washington Post article reported that the House Environment and Transportation Committee voted down Governor Larry Hogan’s bill (HB 481) to repeal 2012 legislation requiring 10 counties to adopt a stormwater remediation fee (known as the “rain tax” by the fee’s opponents).  The article noted that the 14 to 7 vote was along party lines.

Eliminating what he derided as a rain tax was one of Hogan’s central campaign promises last year, when the Republican won an upset victory over then-Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D). But it has drawn strong rebukes from environmental groups, who said the fees are needed to pay for essential cleanup programs. …

“No issue resonates as strongly and no tax is as universally detested as the rain tax,” [Hogan] said. “Passing a law that forces only a handful of counties to raise taxes on their citizens — against their will — is wrong, unfair, and it needs to end.”

House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said this year that he was doubtful his members would pass a repeal of the mandate because doing so would severely hurt the state’s environmental progress.

The article also stated that the Senate will be considering a stormwater fee bill sponsored by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. that includes a repeal of the fee mandate.  Miller’s bill, SB 863, is set to be heard by the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday, March 10 at 1:00 PM.  Miller’s bill also includes fee caps and annual performance reporting requirements for the 10 affected counties.

From March 6 Baltimore Sun coverage:

But Del. Kumar P. Barve, the [Environmental and Transportation Committee’s] chairman, said he was convinced the current law gives counties and the city all the flexibility they need to reduce or even eliminate their fees if they want to, as some already have.  …

Hogan issued a statement saying he was “confident that the General Assembly will still move forward with a repeal of the rain tax.” Some Senate bills would lift the mandate, including one put in by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller that has 29 co-sponsors, more than enough to pass that chamber.

House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga called the vote “disappointing” but said Republicans would get behind Miller’s bill if necessary.

March 6 Baltimore Sun article with further reactions from Republican Party & Maryland League of Conservation Voters

March 8 WYPR 88.1 FM radio story on Baltimore County’s efforts to fund stormwater pollution remediation

March 8 Baltimore Sun opinion on Goucher Poll findings for stormwater fee and why it remains a hot political topic

March 4 Conduit Street blog article on MACo stormwater fee testimony

February 6 Conduit Street blog article on MACo stormwater fee position statement