From Harford County government:
Stormwater Fee Repeal Introduced at County Council
As you have probably heard, my administration has introduced local legislation for a full repeal of the county’s Stormwater Remediation Fee, also known as the Rain Tax. I’d like to briefly explain how we arrived at this decision.
Despite my strong opposition to the 2012 state legislation that required certain counties to charge a fee, we passed local legislation pursuant to our requirements under the state law. We did so in good faith in order to remain in compliance with the new law by the specified deadline and to avoid the costly penalties that had been threatened. At the time I had, however, many serious questions regarding this state-required fee and the projects that it would fund, including:
1. How the inconsistencies in the application of the fee from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, as well as within individual jurisdictions, could be justified and whether it passes a basic test of fairness;
2. Whether the data and science used to determine the baselines and benchmarks related to stormwater were sound;
3. What the specific penalties for noncompliance with the state-mandated stormwater fee or with required stormwater remediation benchmarks would be; and,
4. How the expenditure of tens of millions of dollars in county funds, as well as the significant burdens placed on taxpayers and businesses, can be justified in order to achieve a relatively small reduction in locally-produced stormwater pollution when far more nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment are flowing into the bay each day from a variety of sources in neighboring states.
To date, none of these questions have been adequately answered by the State of Maryland or the federal EPA. In fact if anything, there are even more questions. On the local level, programs for managing the system of credits for remediation practices and for the awarding of projects and grants have not been sufficiently created given the lack of direction from the state or the creation of a local advisory board.
I am now of the opinion that the leadership in Annapolis is no longer in a position to follow through on the threatened penalties for noncompliance given the public backlash that their ‘rain tax’ mandate has rightly received. We have not, however, received any formal notification from the state related to this determination.
The fact that stormwater and urban runoff from Maryland accounts for just 5% of the sediment and 2% of the nitrogen and phosphorus in the Bay calls into question the need to undertake incredibly costly public works projects. We all want a cleaner Bay, but are we willing to stretch the household budgets of our citizens or to put local companies out of business to achieve just a fractional improvement in Bay quality?
Because of these reasons, on October 1 I introduced legislation to the County Council for a full repeal of Harford’s local stormwater remediation fee. I wish to thank and commend the County Council for their work, through which the first year fees were minimized and a task force was convened to study the issue. The period of time that they created to allow for the stormwater fee to be more adequately studied has made it possible for us to undertake this repeal deliberately and in a responsible manner.
David R. Craig
Harford County Executive