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Trickle-Down Taxation: Maryland Residents Facing 'Rain Tax'

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In 1965, disgusted by what he viewed as confiscatory taxation by the British authorities -- a supertax instituted by the Labor government was taking 95 percent of top earners' income -- George Harrison wrote a bitter song from the perspective of a maniacal tax collector:

​​If you drive a car, I'll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I'll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I'll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet.


But even Harrison's "Taxman" never conceived of a levy on the weather, something currently being instituted in Maryland.

Some background: The Chesapeake Bay faces a serious pollution problem. The Environmental Protection Agency decreed in 2010 that Maryland had to stop so much stormwater runoff from draining into the Bay, a project that would cost $14.8 billion. To pay for that, authorities decided to tax "impervious surfaces" -- in the words of The Gazette, "anything that prevents rainwater from seeping into the earth (roofs, driveways, patios, sidewalks, etc.) thereby causing stormwater runoff."

This solution is being called -- with the combined goodwill these two concepts evoke -- a rain tax.

Faced with the EPA's orders, the state has required its 10 largest counties -- Montgomery, Prince George's, Howard, Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford, Charles, Frederick, Baltimore counties and Baltimore city -- to raise the revenue. Rain taxes are to take effect in these areas by July 1.

Perhaps even more disturbing than the duty itself is the manner in which property owners' obligations will be calculated: According to the Gazette, "satellite imagery and geographic information systems" will be used to measure the area of roofs and driveways.

Homeowners will bear the brunt of the rain tax: of the $14.8 billion to be raised -- $482 million each year until 2025 -- about three-quarters will come from residential property owners. The rate is expected to start at $100 a year for most homeowners, although that could rise. The only rain tax shelter: credits and exemptions for property owners who follow stormwater "best practices."

How the money will be spent is another murky situation; for the full details, head over to The Gazette.


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