The House Environment and Transportation Committee voted down HB 366, which would have changed the definition of “tax” to exclude liens against real property for unpaid water and sewer charges, and prohibit Baltimore City from selling a property at tax sale just for these charges. MACo opposed this legislation due to the severe statewide consequences as changing the definition of “tax” would undermine tax collections in all local jurisdictions.
From MACo’s testimony,
Should this bill pass, Baltimore City would be able to enforce a lien for unpaid water and sewer bills as long as the property was being sold to enforce another lien, but the remaining 23 counties would be totally unable to collect unpaid water and sewer bills through the tax sale process.
The tax sale process, or more specifically 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. HB 366 removes this leverage for Baltimore City and the 23 counties, and undoubtedly would create many more deficient accounts for water and sewer bills from lack of enforcement – leading to increased rates on citizens who properly pay.
For more on MACo’s 2015 legislation, visit the legislative database.