New Bill in MD Senate Would Not Impose "Rain Tax" - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

New Bill in MD Senate Would Not Impose "Rain Tax"

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - The state of Maryland wouldn't impose mandatory fees to clean pollution out of stormwater under a new bill offered in the Maryland Senate on Wednesday, but local officials would still have to prove they could pay to meet federal requirements.

Nine counties and the city of Baltimore currently pay the controversial fees, which critics have dubbed "the rain tax." Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller's proposal's to eliminate the mandate has backing from 30 out of 47 senators, including 11 of the chamber's 14 Republicans.

"This has been a very contentious issue that I believe this proposal will help resolve," said Miller, D-Calvert.

Under Miller's proposal, local officials would have to show how they would pay to meet federal stormwater management requirements.

Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, has proposed separate legislation to repeal the fees. Hogan, who campaigned against the fees, contends the state should not be forcing counties to raise taxes on their citizens against their will.

Under Miller's bill, counties would still have the option of charging the fees.

If a county chose to impose the fees, the new measure would add veterans' groups to the list of exempt organizations, along with volunteer fire departments, which are exempt under current law. The bill has a cap on nonprofit groups equal to $15 per 1,000 square feet. Miller's proposal also requires local governments to give nonprofits facing financial hardship alternative ways to comply.

"It does what the governor wants to accomplish in a much more pleasing way to everyone," he said.

It's unclear how the Senate president's bill would fare in the House of Delegates, which is also controlled by Democrats. House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, has not expressed enthusiasm for changing the law, and Alexandra Hughes, a spokeswoman for the speaker, declined to comment on the measure Wednesday.

Maryland's stormwater management plan is implemented locally, with little financial support from the state. The state-mandated stormwater management fees were approved in 2012.

The affected counties are Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Charles, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's. The counties have varied widely in how they have followed the law. Carroll County, for example, already has stopped imposing the fees by looking for alternative ways of paying to meet the federal requirements.

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