Gov. Hogan’s proposal to abolish rain tax a sign of Maryland’s ‘new direction’

By: James Simpson

Rain tax, flush tax, Maryland’s newly elected governor hopes to make it all water under the bridge

Gov. Larry Hogan made history in 2014 as only the third GOP governor elected in over 40 years. He did so based on promises to reel in the many excessive taxes imposed on the state by former Gov. Martin O’Malley and to take the state in a “new direction.” This Tuesday, he took the first step, proposing legislation to abolish Maryland’s infamous “rain tax.”

Shutterstock Image

Shutterstock Image: NO TAXATION ON CONDENSATION: Gov. Hogan is getting to work on his tax cutting campaign promises by proposing legislation to get rid of Maryland’s notorious rain tax.

Maryland is the only state in the nation to impose such a tax. Formally called the storm water runoff fee, its ostensible purpose is to fund efforts to abate nitrogen and phosphorus pollution into the Chesapeake Bay from storm water runoff. Individuals and businesses are charged a variable tax, based on the area of impermeable surface on their property. For businesses, the fee can run into thousands of dollars annually.

On top of all the other taxes and regulations imposed on Maryland citizens and businesses, it convinced voters, registered as Democrats at a ratio of 2 to 1 over Republicans, to give Hogan a 4 point victory over his Democratic opponent last November, despite being heavily outspent. But Hogan has his work cut out for him.

Democrats still enjoy substantial majorities in both houses of the state Legislature, and gave O’Malley a blank check to do virtually whatever he wanted. Despite claiming he cut the budget by $9.1 billion, spending grew from $29 billion in FY 2007 to $38.9 billion for FY 2015 under O’Malley’s watch– a 34 percent increase.

To help finance this spending spree O’Malley rained down 40 new taxes costing Marylanders $9.5 billion during his tenure. Hogan estimates that by 2018, taxpayers will have shelled out a total of $20 billion for these taxes if nothing is done.

Many of these, including the notorious “rain tax” were rationalized as essential to fighting Chesapeake Bay pollution. But the former governor became notorious for repeatedly raiding funds specifically set aside for this and other purposes.

For example, the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund (BRF) was created in 2004 ostensibly to cut Bay pollution from waste water treatment plants (WWTP) and septic tanks. This fund is paid for by one of Maryland’s other notorious fees, the “flush tax.” In addition to regular water bills, Marylanders must pay an annual fee for the privilege of flushing their toilets. The tax was doubled in 2012, supposedly to cover cost increases. But the O’Malley administration repeatedly raided the fund. Published accounts estimated at least $135 million removed between 2009 and 2013.

But it was actually more than twice that amount. No problem, said O’Malley, just issue bonds to replace the depleted funds. And that is what the state did. In its 2014 annual BRF status report, the state listed the current funding level at $586 million, of which $290 million was in state obligation bonds issued to replace $290 million “transferred to the general fund.” (See p. 9). In other words, over half the BRF has been financed by debt, despite a doubling of the flush tax.

O’Malley similarly raided Maryland’s Transportation Trust Fund to the tune of $1.1 billion. Despite receiving $771 million in stimulus funds for transportation and infrastructure projects, he repeatedly raised the gas tax used to finance the fund. Democratic State Comptroller Peter Franchot protested a 2013 gas tax increase saying that “it’s going to be for general fund relief, not traffic congestion relief.”

Meanwhile, the justification for some of these taxes rests on arguments that are shallower than a mud puddle. For example, EPA pollution targets for Maryland’s storm water runoff equate to a mere 0.6 percent of the Bay’s annual nitrogen load and 1 percent of the phosphorus load. The state anticipates having to spend $7.4 billion between now and 2025 to meet these targets. This amounts to an abatement cost of $3,442 per pound of pollutant.

Conspicuously absent from the various Bay analyses are the many “illegal” spills of municipal sewer systems. These occur when sewer pipes either jam or pumping stations malfunction. Sewage then backs up and spills over into storm water pipes where it empties directly into the Bay. The state tracks these spills, but because they are considered “illegal” they are not counted in official estimates; neither are they included in WWTP or storm water reduction targets.

The numbers however, are substantial. 3.8 billion gallons of raw sewage has been pumped into the Bay between 2005 and 2013. That equates to approximately 16 million tons, or two million tons per year for the time in question, if one assumes the weight of water – more if the sewage is heavier.

Marylanders have suffered through eight years under the former governor, as these few examples suggest. Taxpayers and businesses with the wherewithal to do so have been leaving the state in droves to avoid it. According to Hogan’s Change Maryland website:

Since 2007, nearly 31,000 Marylander’s fled to other states, the highest in the region, 6500 small businesses have left or shut down, the second-highest in the region, and just three Fortune 500 companies remain in the state. This is a sharp contrast to 24 large corporate headquarters in Virginia and 23 in Pennsylvania.

One of the most recent departures was firearms manufacturer Beretta USA, which is moving its U.S. manufacturing facility to Tennessee. The company had been located in Maryland for 40 years. The decision was made following enactment of a widely unpopular gun measure that O’Malley pushed through despite an unprecedented uproar from citizens throughout the state. That was O’Malley’s style.

Gov. Hogan hopes to cultivate Democratic support for his “new direction” tax and spending plans. He needs their support. It remains to be seen whether or not he will get it.

This article was written by a contributor of Watchdog Arena, Franklin Center’s network of writers, bloggers, and citizen journalists.


Ignore Shoemaker: Frazier’s appointment a win for Maryland

By: James Simpson
DC Independent Examiner

Well, Maryland delegate Haven Shoemaker has treated us to yet another demonstration of his incisive wit, engaging personality and stunning political wisdom with his measured, wise and gracious remarks about Robin Frazier’s appointment to Joe Getty’s Maryland state senate seat.


Shoemaker called the Carroll County GOP “nuttier than outhouse rats,” for choosing her, adding, “To make this decision represents a nullification of the will of the people.” (Robin Bartlett Frazier nominated to State Senate seat, Carroll County Times, January 10, 2015). Shoemaker’s disrespectful remarks reflect Shoemaker’s poor character and lack of integrity more than anything else.

In fact, Shoemaker has it exactly backwards. When union sanctioned, pro-government, pro-spending candidates took over the Republican primary elections across the county last year, they truly did nullify the peoples’ will. All Marylanders should be concerned by this development. You can read more about that institutional vote fraud disgrace, here. To suggest the “will of the people” had anything to do with it, reveals a profound, perhaps willful ignorance.

Democrats switched sides en masse in the primary; then switched right back after voting. Meanwhile government unions provided money, muscle and materiel to defeat conservatives. Remember all those yard signs saturating the County? Your tax dollars – through the government unions – paid for that. It was the most unethical election in recent history, and for Maryland, that is quite an accomplishment. Robin Frazier was an unfortunate casualty.

But for Haven it was all good. Moral compass swinging like a windsock in a tornado, Mr. Shoemaker now deigns to enlighten us all with his gratuitous smearing of the Carroll County Republican Central Committee. If you need further proof of Shoemaker’s true loyalties, look no further.

Haven said Frazier can’t “reach across the aisle.” Be confident that as a newly-minted delegate, Mr. Shoemaker will reach across, risking your hard-earned tax dollars in the process. In fact, he proves yet again that he is already there. And there he will stay, because as a pandering, big government statist in Republican clothing, Mr. Shoemaker is much more comfortable retreating to safe, go-along-to-get-along politics than standing on principle.

Robin Frazier stood on principle every single day as commissioner. I saw that firsthand during my time working for the commissioners. That is why Carroll County’s RINOs conspired with the state’s Democrats and unions to defeat her in last year’s election. They are not interested in saving taxpayer dollars, lifting onerous regulations, or reducing the size and scope of government. These are the things she did.

Instead, RINOs like Haven find common cause with tax and spend Democrats to explode government, smother us with regulation, and spend money when they don’t even have to. I challenge Haven to name even one thing he did as commissioner that reduced spending or regulation – which he himself, rather than Frazier or Rothschild thought of. He did, however, vote their ideas many times.

Robin would be the first legislator to reach across the aisle if she believed it would genuinely serve Maryland citizens’ best interests. And she would do so from a position of strength, knowing full well the principles she stands on. Unlike Shoemaker, she is willing to go to jail to defend them. Robin will fight. Haven is content to manage the decline. For a long time, RINOs have been compromising whatever principles they have just to claim “bipartisanship.” The disastrous results are self-evident.

And about that lawsuit over prayer? The Carroll County Times somehow forgot that the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Robin (see Greece v Galloway). They also forgot to mention that a non-profit law firm dedicated to protecting First Amendment rights donated all their legal services on behalf of the County. That battle is mostly over; won by Frazier and like-minded patriots, even if the Humanist Association and the Times can’t admit it. Haven voted with Frazier on that one too.

The Carroll County GOP Central Committee based its decision on Frazier’s extensive experience in both public life and private industry. This included her four years service in the Ehrlich Administration as the Intergovernmental Affairs Coordinator for the Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism and Community Initiatives, and her appointment by Governor O’Malley to the Board of the Maryland Association of Counties. The Committee noted: “In this position she worked closely with legislators and other county leadership to improve, modify or eliminate legislation of concern to the counties and consistently lobbied for smaller government.”

Following are some of the things Frazier advocated and voted for as Carroll County Commissioner over the past four years:

  • for tax cuts every year she was in office;
  • for smaller county government with more efficient use of tax dollars;
  • for controlled spending on education in correlation with the continuing decline in enrollments;
  • for less regulations in both county government and from the state;
  • to educate county residents on the problems with common core and to return control to teachers and parents;
  • to stop palm scanning of Carroll County public school students;
  • to protect Carroll County residents’ 2nd Amendment rights;
  • to prevent the rain tax from being mandated in Carroll County;
  • to provide resources for the 20-25% of the student aged population in the county who aren’t in the public school system;
  • to get out of the incinerator contract that promised to bankrupt the county;
  • to increase the CATS bus system efficiency and reduce its costs to taxpayers;
  • to keep mass transit out of the county;
  • to protect the Commissioners’ right to pray before open session if they want to, as guaranteed in Article 36 of the Maryland State Constitution.

Pity there aren’t more people like Robin in public office. Never mind his gratuitous insults, Haven Shoemaker’s assertions are entirely off base. Haven is the kind of person who hangs on his every word. It’s a good thing that others don’t. The Carroll County GOP made a great choice in appointing Frazier. It will at least partially rectify the results of the election that was stolen from her, and assuredly blunt some of the idiocy Haven is sure to bring to the Maryland legislature – which already has more than enough.