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Raindrops keep fallin' on my overtaxed Maryland real estate

There are endless possibilities for punch lines and puns when it comes to the Maryland storm water clean-up law, but hardly anyone in the affected counties is laughing. Somehow, being on the hook for millions of dollars in fees is just not funny to residential and commercial property owners.

While a handful of lawmakers attempted to delay the July implementation date, the General Assembly adjourned earlier this week without making the change. One bill would have delayed the fees -- or are they taxes? -- for two years. Another would have exempted nonprofits, including churches, and government agencies from the assessment. Yet another proposal in Anne Arundel County would have asked churches to pay just $1.

The law remains, though, and the "rain tax" will take effect as scheduled.

So how much will homeowners and commercial property owners have to pay? The fees will be based on the property's "impervious surface area." The per-square-foot levy amount will be left to local governments to decide. The funds will go toward pollution abatement programs in Chesapeake Bay.

For the most part, opponents maintain that the fee is just another burden on the cash-strapped residents and businesses of Maryland. The state recently increased the gas tax as well. By continuing to pile on with obligations to the state, the law is a threat to Maryland's recovery from the recession, according to one opponent. All seemed to agree that the purpose was laudable but the timing was lousy.

Regardless of arguments on either side, the state has to find a way to meet the Environmental Protection Agency's 2017 deadline for the bay's clean-up.

Source: Maryland Reporter, "'Rain tax' on property owners for Bay cleanup survives attempt to delay it," Ilana Kowarski, April 9, 2013

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