From Sen. Nancy Jacobs:
Recreational boaters fill the beautiful waterways lining our state. Workboats bring in the crabs and oysters for which Maryland is famous. Annapolis is the sailing capitol of the world. But from Annapolis comes news that those who own a boat face paying a huge jump in licensing fees.
Currently, boaters pay $24 every two years for a license. Now, the fees will be based on boat size with most licenses costing five times more, about $125. Bigger boats could pay up to $700 more for two years.
The Department of Natural Resources explains it needs the higher fees because the Army Corps of Engineers will no longer pay to dredge a number of waterways. That is a critical task because boaters don’t want to be silted in and wait till high tide to get their boats out. The other reason for the hike is funds that used to come to DNR from boat sales have dropped by half due to the tough economy.
The proposed boat license fees will put us higher than Virginia where a three year registration at most is $45. In Delaware the highest fee for big boats is $60 a year.
It’s important to worry that this could put Maryland’s at a regional disadvantage and subject the boating industry to another economic hit.
There may be a false perception that boat owners in our state can easily afford a fee hike. But I think the majority of them are not well heeled and prioritize their spending to keep their love of boating alive.
Dredging and other waterway maintenance must be done. But it’s critical to point out that Governor O’Malley has raided the Waterway Improvement Fund, where boat license fees go in the past. Over $1 million dollars has been taken for other purposes. It’s hard to convince boaters to accept the giant fee hike when that happened and could happen again. Not to mention, boaters pay the gas tax at the dock but that money goes to fixing roads, not waterway improvements.
Also, a recent state audit of the Department of Natural Resources found careless stewardship of taxpayer funds. An employee credit card had questionable charges topping $71,000. A 1.7 million dollar account wasn’t analyzed and DNR lost $30,000 in interest by missing a federal deadline.
The Administration must do a better job of managing the public money before it comes begging for more.