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The Rain Facts

Over the last year, while the 10 largest Mary­land juris­dic­tions were devel­op­ing fund­ing pro­grams to ensure the main­te­nance and improve­ment of stormwa­ter infra­struc­ture, a small, but vocal oppo­si­tion referred to this effort as the “rain tax”. This catchy lit­tle phrase led to some inter­est­ing sound bites, such as: “Tax the rain? Next it will be the air we breathe.” or “Mary­land taxes any­thing that moves.” Here’s my favorite, from the Gov­er­nor of Texas, “In Mary­land they tax rain, in Texas we pray for rain”. Well, there is another side to this nar­ra­tive. It’s not the rain but the runoff that is the cul­prit here.

In sim­ple terms, rain falls from the sky– end of story. On the other hand, runoff hap­pens when rain can­not soak into the ground– and the prob­lems begin. Runoff starts to flow across the land and along the way col­lects var­i­ous types of pol­lu­tion like fer­til­izer, sed­i­ment, pet waste and lit­ter. This runoff cock­tail, if not man­aged, will find the short­est path to a low lying creek, stream or river. Once there, the pol­luted runoff causes ero­sion and degrades the qual­ity of our rivers and the Chesa­peake Bay. It is runoff, not rain that neces­si­tates the fund­ing of a util­ity to main­tain, repair and improve our stormwa­ter infra­struc­ture. It is this infra­struc­ture that in turn pro­tects our water resources for the future.

So it seems pretty clear, this is not a case of the gov­ern­ment tax­ing the rain, but instead a case of runoff tax­ing the environment.

Jim Cald­well
Jan­u­ary 2014

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