Anne Arundel County executive vetoes 'rain tax' fee
Anne Arundel County Executive Laura A. Neuman on Thursday vetoed
that county's version of the so-called rain tax - making it the
first jurisdiction to take action against the controversial
state-mandated stormwater management fee.
Under legislation approved last year, Anne Arundel, eight other
counties and Baltimore City have until July 1 to approve a fee on
property owners to pay for stormwater projects aimed at curbing
pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.
Neuman said too few people know about the fee, and it needs more
discussion before it becomes law.
"Every single person I asked - citizens of this county - not one
of them was aware of it. If they were aware, they said, 'Is this
the gas tax?'" she said. "The vast majority of the public is not
fully aware that this new tax is coming."
The Anne Arundel County Council voted 4-3 this month to approve
fees of $85 for most single-family homes, $34 for townhouses and
condominiums and $170 for rural houses. Businesses would be charged
based on the square footage of impervious surfaces, such as
rooftops and parking lots, on their properties.
Neuman said the county administration did not do an adequate job
reaching out to businesses and homeowners to tell them about the
stormwater fee. A Republican, Neuman replaced John R. Leopold as
executive in February after Leopold resigned in the wake of a
She said she wants her staff to make community presentations to
raise awareness of the issue, and in the meantime wants the council
to rethink the fee amounts and consider phasing them in. She does
not plan to introduce her own bill.
Some council members say they might move to override Neuman's
veto, or pass another bill before July 1. Councilman Chris
Trumbauer, a Democrat from Annapolis, said the county executive's
veto "casts a veil of uncertainty" over what happens next.
"It's troubling that now the county executive is wanting to cancel
this and start from scratch. I think it's a huge mistake," he
Trumbauer introduced the stormwater fee bill on behalf of Leopold
and worked for a year before that on a task force that developed
major portions of the bill. He said the best course might be to
override the veto - which would take five votes - and then consider
any change to the stormwater fees with subsequent bills.
Councilman Jamie Benoit, a Crownsville Democrat, agreed an
override is "a very real possibility."
"The state has given us a pretty clear mandate to deal with this
by July 1," Benoit said. "They tell you to do something, you do
But Council Chairman Jerry Walker, a Republican from Gambrills,
called Neuman's veto "fantastic," and Councilman Derek Fink, of
Pasadena, applauded it as well.
"I'm not happy with this bill," said Fink, also a Republican. "I
think it needs a lot of work."
He said he supports a "much, much, much smaller number as a place
holder" while a new set of fees is considered. And he agreed the
debate has flown under the radar of most homeowners and business
owners. Such a substantial fee - it would raise nearly $20 million
in the first year - needs more discussion, he said.
"People just aren't aware that bills of this size are coming and I
think it was a smart thing to do," Fink said.
Baltimore, Harford and Howard counties have approved stormwater
fees in the wake of the state mandate. Fees have yet to be approved
in Baltimore City and Carroll, Charles, Frederick and Prince
George's counties, according to the Maryland Association of
Counties. Montgomery County has a fee, but is revising it.
When lawmakers required 10 large jurisdictions to pass stormwater
fees last year, it generated some opposition but not a public
outcry. But in recent weeks opponents have begun calling the fee a
"rain tax," and the label has drawn attention in the national
media, on social media and the Internet.
David Ferguson, executive director of the Maryland Republican
Party, said the "rain tax" moniker has gained further currency in
the GOP as Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, considers a run for
"Part of our brand is being opposed to new taxes," he said. "I
would hope leaders across the state would follow her example."
Ferguson said Neuman's veto took "leadership and guts."
Alan Rzepkowski, chairman of Anne Arundel's Republican Central
Committee, said the veto burnishes Neuman's Republican
"It shows she is a conservative and she does care about the
citizens of Anne Arundel County and the amount of taxes they pay,"
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