Though Hurricane Irene’s damage to Ocean City was surprisingly light, the shuttering of the beach cost Maryland about $2 million in tax revenue, Comptroller Peter Franchot said Wednesday.
The loss included an estimated $1.75 million in sales tax revenue and $150,000 in withholding taxes during the tourist destination’s evacuation, Franchot said, citing an analysis by the Bureau of Revenue Estimates. The analysis also estimated a $60,000 loss in gas tax revenue from canceled weekend trips and roughly $45,000 in lost toll revenue from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
In addition, Ocean City lost nearly $40,000 of admissions and amusement tax revenue from its many attractions and events, Franchot said.
“Ocean City is one of Maryland’s most powerful economic engines, and a lost weekend at the height of the summer tourist season will certainly have an effect on our state’s finances, just as they have taken an obvious toll on businesses that are already dealing with tough economic times,” Franchot said in a statement. “Given the disastrous impact of this storm on other parts of our country, however, I am profoundly grateful that Ocean City and the state of Maryland as a whole weathered this storm with minimal injury or loss of life.”
Franchot added that he is “thrilled that Ocean City is open for business once again“ and urged Marylanders to head back to the beach.
Franchot spokesman Joseph Shapiro said Franchot is “not in any way second-guessing the decisions” made to evacuate Ocean City in advance of the storm. Shapiro said Franchot is “very supportive” of how Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and Ocean City officials handled the situation.
In the wake of the storm, Ocean City officials defended the evacuation.
“People will think that, but based on the forecast and the information we had, it was absolutely the right thing to do,” said police Chief Bernadette DiPino. “It was only by the grace of God that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.”