Harford County Executive David R. Craig, a leading Republican candidate for governor of Maryland, said Thursday that he would seek a repeal of his jurisdiction’s storm-water reduction fee — a move that would flout state law.
Craig, who faces a competitive GOP primary next year, said that in the spring his county had adopted its version of the “rain tax” in good faith to comply with a state mandate and avert the threat of costly penalties for failing to do so.
A 2012 law signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) requires metropolitan counties to adopt fees on businesses and residences to pay for improvements to control storm-water runoff and reduce flooding. The measure is aimed at reducing runoff from so-called impervious surfaces, such as parking lots, that contribute to nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.
The legislation was passed following directives by the Environmental Protection Agency that the state do more about storm-water pollution.
Craig said he would introduce local legislation next month for a “full repeal” of the Harford’s fee to the County Council. The fees were set at $125 for residential and agricultural properties, and $7 for every 500 square feet of impervious surface for commercial properties.
“While I share the desire for a clean and healthy bay, as most of us probably do, I question the priorities of those in Annapolis who feel that no price is too steep to pay for only a marginal improvement in bay quality,” Craig said. “Our businesses and taxpayers expect us, as county government, to act as their last line of defense against over-the-top polices from the state and federal governments whenever possible, and that is what I intend to do.”
The storm-water reduction fee has been roundly criticized by Republicans, and Craig is not the first GOP county leader to challenge the mandate. The Carroll County commissioners refused to adopt a fee, and Frederick County approved a nominal 1-cent charge.
In an interview with The Baltimore Sun published Tuesday night, Craig said he would also seek to repeal the state law and suggested rolling back other Maryland laws aimed at reducing pollution in the bay that he said have not proven effective.
Those include laws that limit development in “critical areas” near the bay and its tributaries, and require farmers to limit the runoff of fertilizer and animal waste, according to the Sun. With overwhelming Democratic majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly, repeals of such legislation would face very long odds.
Craig faces Del. Ronald A. George (R-Anne Arundel) and Charles County businessman Charles Lollar in the June GOP primary. Other potential candidates are looking at the race, including Larry Hogan, leader of the grass-roots group Change Maryland; and Michael S. Steele, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a former lieutenant governor of Maryland.