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Del. Patrick McDonough has kicked off a campaign urging state lawmakers to repeal the so-called “rain tax,” a law requiring several jurisdictions to adopt stormwater management fees.
“This is the most unpopular tax I’ve ever witnessed,” said McDonough (R-Baltimore, Harford), who served in the House once from 1979 to 1983 and again since 2003. “It’s an example of states robbing local governments of their autonomy.”
McDonough said he will soon be forming a state political action committee to back the campaign, which he expects to include several Democrats.
“We’re going to need those Democrats who voted for this to take a second look and consider the impact,” he said.
Next year’s election should make sure lawmakers pay attention to the issue, McDonough said.
The law, which took effect July 1, required nine counties and Baltimore to adopt the fees, which support the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Property owners are charged based on the amount of impervious surface, but local governments set their own fees.
The Charles County commissioners last month approved a flat $43 fee over a model proposed by county staff that would have charged urban and rural properties differently and assessed businesses, nonprofits and faith-based groups individually. Under that plan, residential properties and farmland would have been charged between $10 and $60, while nonresidential properties would have had to pay between $30 and $25,590, according to county figures.
One Democrat who won’t be joining McDonough’s campaign is Del. Tom Hucker (D-Montgomery), who sponsored the 2012 bill that created the new law.
Not only do the fees protect the health of the Chesapeake Bay, but stormwater remediation projects resulting from the law will create thousands of construction, engineering and design jobs, Hucker said.
“Historically, my colleagues have been too wise to listen to Del. McDonough,” Hucker said.
Harford County Executive David R. Craig also called for the law’s repeal, saying in a statement Monday that the fees would be a disincentive for businesses, such as those with large parking lots, from coming to Maryland.
Although the two have similar goals, Craig is not participating in McDonough’s campaign, a spokesman for the county executive confirmed.
McDonough said that there is a precedent for the law’s repeal, citing the 6 percent sales tax on online services adopted by lawmakers in 2007 and then repealed before it took effect in 2008 after intense lobbying from tech companies.
Lawmakers, including several Democrats, expressed concern in April that the impact of the fees on businesses, nonprofits and homeowners associations could be greater than anticipated, and said the law may be revisited in the next General Assembly session.
Staff writer Jeff Newman contributed to this report.