Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan loves to tell voters that Democratic nominee Anthony G. Brown is part of an administration that taxed everything that it could — even the rain.
Hogan’s first ad attacking Brown, released right after the primary and titled “The Most Incompetent Man in Maryland,” includes this line: “He helped raised taxes 40 times in a row. He even taxed the rain.”
Then a Hogan supporter released a spoof of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain” that opens: “I hope you will remember the name of Anthony Brown. He’s the one that taxes the rain when it falls down.”
The Hogan campaign even gave some donors black umbrellas labeled: “Who’ll stop the rain (tax)?”
But, wait, even Maryland’s top bureaucrats can’t tax water falling from the sky — can they?
Although Maryland Republicans and others like to use the buzzy name “rain tax,” the technical term is a “stormwater remediation fee.” And it’s more of a pollution tax than a rain tax.
The Chesapeake Bay and its watershed have been damaged over the years as rain falls on the state’s miles of roads, parking lots and other hard surfaces, mixes with pollutants and then washes into rivers and streams.
In 2012, following new federal mandates, the Maryland General Assembly created a stormwater fee that’s paid by property owners in the state’s 10 most populous jurisdictions. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) signed the legislation into law.
Local leaders can charge a flat fee or calculate a tax rate based on the amount of impervious surface on a property. The money collected is used to improve how stormwater moves through the jurisdiction, such as adding landscaping that can slow the runoff and filter out pollutants.
At the time the legislation passed, analysts said that if the state didn’t allow some jurisdictions to establish the fee, they would have to find money for the environmental efforts elsewhere in their budgets.
While Hogan has been vocal in trashing the so-called rain tax, he has yet to detail where the state or counties would find funding for stormwater mitigation if the fee were abolished.