Consider all the ways we’re taxed. When we’re born (birth certificate), when we die (death certificate), when we make money (income tax), when we spend money (sales tax), when we own property (property tax), when we sell property (capital gains tax), when we go to a concert or ball game (amusement tax), when we own a vehicle (license, registration, tolls, gas tax) and special taxes on cell phones, tobacco, alcohol, energy, etc. Then, when we die, they tax our income all over again (death tax). Heck, they even tax our bowel movements (flush tax).
But if you thought they ran out of ways to tax us you badly misjudged our lawmakers’ creativity. Get ready for their newest invention, the rain tax. Here’s what’s going on:
In 2010 the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency ordered Maryland to reduce stormwater runoff into the Chesapeake Bay so that nitrogen levels fall 22 percent and phosphorus falls 15 percent from current amounts. The price tag: $14.8 billion.
And where do we get the $14.8 billion? By taxing so-called “impervious surfaces,” anything that prevents rain water from seeping into the earth (roofs, driveways, patios, sidewalks, etc.) thereby causing stormwater run off. In other words, a rain tax.
And who levies this new rain tax? Witness how taxation, like rain, trickles down through the various pervious levels of government until it reaches the impervious level — me and you.
The EPA ordered Maryland to raise the money (an unfunded mandate), Maryland ordered its 10 largest counties to raise the money (another unfunded mandate) and, now, each of those counties is putting a local rain tax in place by July 1.
So, if you live in Montgomery, Prince George’s, Howard, Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford, Charles, Frederick, Baltimore counties or Baltimore city, you’ll be paying a rain tax on your next property tax bill.
Well, you ask, “How on earth can the government know how much impervious surface I own?” Answer: It’s not on earth, it’s in the sky. Thanks to satellite imagery and geographic information systems, Big Brother can measure your roof and driveway (and you thought drones were only used for killing terrorists).
OK, once the counties raise this money, how is it spent? The state law is kind of squishy. It can be spent to build and maintain stream and wetland restoration projects. And, of course, a lot of it will go to “monitoring, inspection, enforcement, review of stormwater management plans and permit applications and mapping of impervious surfaces.” In other words, hiring more bureaucrats to administer the rain tax program.
It can also be spent on “public education and outreach” (whatever that means) and on “grants to nonprofit organizations” (i.e. to the greenies who pushed the tax through the various levels of government).
If I asked you to guess which Maryland county is already levying a rain tax on its citizens, you’d correctly answer “Montgomery,” the “more taxes, please” jurisdiction that collected a $17 million rain tax last year. So, since Montgomery County already has a rain tax in place (but only on residences) let’s take a peek at the future. Here’s how Montgomery County is spending some of its rain tax:
“(The county) holds workshops and training events to help residents understand how various projects work. Projects such as rain gardens, conservation landscaping, rain barrels and cisterns, drywells and tree planting are then offered to be installed on properties that qualify, based on the County’s assessment.”
So, I’m supposed to pay a rain tax so the county can train me how to plant a tree, which they’ll give me if, in its view, I qualify? Have we all gone mad?
According to state officials, the 10 rain tax counties must raise $482 million a year to finance the $14.8 billion stormwater cleanup bonds by 2025. About 75 percent will come from homeowners and about 25 percent will come from non-residential property owners.
Credits and exemptions must be granted to property owners who already meet stormwater “best practices” standards. And the county governments can phase-in the rain tax levels (to get them past the next election). Most homeowners will pay around $100 a year (less if you live in an apartment or condo). But the rates may double or triple later.
It’s the nonresidential owners who are getting hit, annually, with five- and six-figure amounts because they own such large rooftops and parking lots (car dealerships, shopping centers, malls, office buildings, warehouses, etc.). Disclosure: My house has a driveway and a (sometimes) impervious roof, and I work for, and partly own, a commercial real estate company.
But homeowners are going to pay the rain tax three times. Once, on their homes. A second time because commercial leases force tenants pay the landlord’s property taxes, which the tenants will, then, pass on to their customers. And a third time as church members or supporters of nonprofit hospitals, private schools and charities.
You see, state lawmakers exempted government-owned property from the rain tax but imposed it on religions and nonprofits (which own big roofs and parking lots).
“What we are waking up to is that a number of counties are moving in the direction of a significant and very unexpected financial impact on organizations that ordinarily are not taxed because they’re nonprofit organizations that provide services to the community and work on very limited budgets,” says Mary Ellen Russell of the Maryland Catholic Conference.
Sorry, the environment comes first. In life, only three things are certain — death, taxes and rain.
Blair Lee is CEO of the Lee Development Group in Silver Spring and a regular commentator for WBAL radio. His column appears Fridays in Business Gazette. His email address is email@example.com.
Lord help us JESUS! It just gets crazier and crazier!
AS I have said before, the EPA needs to be shut down, everyone fired and never allowed to work in a government office again. They are all completely insane.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Agreed! They have done nothing during their existence that was a benefit to the population. One stupid ruling after the next. Shut them down!!!!
This has to stop ASAP.
Jeeze...I'm surprised Massachusetts hasn't hopped on this bandwagon yet....Better start looking at the upcoming legislation agendas...it's probably in there somewhere! I would urge all to check the legislative agendas of their own states so we can keep on top of which idiots are buying into this before they just steamroll it through with no opposition.
Every city and town in mass is under an epa stormwater management edict. up till now the management bylaws establish the program, who at the local level is responsible for issuing permits and the costs that are passed on to at least the buyers of new homes in their contracts. fortunately Belchertown has only a small area designated as a problem area. however we all know these things start off small and then grow as the gov't gets more and more greedy for more money.
Good information, Jerry, I will look further into this to see how it is affecting us here in Franklin County.
I am speechless.
We must STOP this insanity.
If you notice all this money for these special taxes never go where they are suppose to be. All the money goes into one pot, called the "GENERAL FUND". The General fund gets distributed by the Politicians for their special projects. Yes the environment comes first, but the money never gets there. We don't even know where all this money for taxes, fees, tolls and more special taxes go, other than the "GENERAL FUND"
Gee, if I remember my history, that's why the pilgrims and other settlers came to this country: To get away from over taxation, tyranny of religion, a government that took away all their freedoms and made them into slaves. Here we are 200 years later and facing those same problems. Maybe we will have to divide our country. The idiots that want to be slaves, be taxed to the hilt, be a socialist government, have illegal aliens taking your jobs, having the criminals in charge...you can have half of the USA. The entrepeners, workers, thinkers, the ones that want to get ahead in life and not be burdened by the welfare group that doesn't want to work and expects to be taken care of...we will take the other Half of the USA. But don't come crying to us when the criminals take over your half, because we will be armed and ready to protect our families and properties. Remember these words because the future is bleak for the United States of America as it is now being controlled by the Politicians YOU VOTED FOR. Those Politicians are protected with their armed security, but you have been denied that type of protection. They are taking your guns away from you. Next it will be any other weapon, like knives, clubs and whatever they think is harmful to them. But the criminals will still have the guns, ammunition, and other weapons of defense where THEY CAN CONTROL AND DOMINATE YOU.
OK, DO WE GET CHARGED PER DROP, BY BUCKET, WHAT HAPPENS WHEN IT DOES NOT RAIN FOR A YR...DO WE STILL GET CHARGED?...................ALL I'M SAYING IS GOD IS WATCHING EVERY MOVE THEY MAKE, HOPE IT ONLY RAINS AT MD. STATE HOUSE????..............FROM MARYLAND