Aug 15, 2020

Ridiculous ‘rain tax’

In the strangeness of a warped reality, the predictions of my father are slowly coming true.

I can remember him telling me once when I was a boy that, “one day, government will be taxing the air we breathe,” in that deep, sarcastic voice he would save for special occasions, like filing taxes.

Dad nearly had it right, but instead of taxing the air we breathe, it’s the CO2 we exhale.

Within the construct of incubator states, where laws are floated to test the public will, unfair laws will raise their ugly heads.

Some of these ugly babies lead to recall elections, as it did under California Governor Gray Davis who was recalled from office in 2003, in part due to a $4 billion vehicle license fee increase to help close a record $35 billion deficit.

Fast forward to 2013 to Maryland’s new “rain tax,” which is a tax on property owners having impervious surfaces preventing rainwater from seeping into the ground.

The rate of tax is based on the calculated amount of rain that flows off of private homes, driveways, sidewalks and other impermeable surfaces.  As usual, the law only applies to private property and exempts state and federally owned surfaces.

Environmentalists claim the tax is necessary to raise money that is needed to clean Chesapeake Bay – in order for the state to be in compliance with federal environmental standards.

Critics argue it is an undue burden on cash-strapped citizens during a painful recession combined with rising inflation costs.

Predictably, the Republican minority, in an overwhelmingly Democrat state, argued the irony behind environmental groups supporting a measure that they themselves were not willing to help pay for.

On the other side, Democrats predictably argued that citizens were warned a year in advance and had plenty of time to prepare themselves financially for the tax increase, clinging to the dumbed-down catchphrase, “It is needed to save the planet.”  It’s an unfair tax, period.

Chesapeake Bay is suffering from increased nutrient pollution, where the primary sources of nitrogen are from agriculture and wastewater. Urban runoff only accounts for a fraction of nitrogen entering the bay.

People, in general, support taxes to keep our environment clean. But penalizing homeowners by having them pay for a problem they didn’t create, under the scheme of “collective pain,” is just plain idiotic.

Maryland has no recall laws of elected officials, so the voters there pretty much get what they vote for. This law, like others, will incubate for a period of time before it either takes off like wildfire, or is squashed like a June bug on a hot summer day.

My guess is it won’t get very far in the red states, but it will do fairly well in the blue states. To that extent, the rain tax will be promoted as the way to save us from environmental disaster, weather permitting.

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