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.