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Author Topic: Update on docking fee increases  (Read 1058 times)
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« on: February 13, 2004, 07:19:01 AM »

The proposed docking fee increases have started! This year Maryland state parks that have boating facilities are going to charge more to launch a craft. If you're a fisherman who uses the most popular launch raps in the state because the best bass fishing can be had in that area Smallwood State Park in Charles County you'll pay twice as much as you did last year. In 2004 the fee will jump to $10.

Stay tuned.

The Washington Post

Ehrlich To Urge User Fees For Bay

By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 18, 2004; Page C04

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. will propose new fees on boaters who dock at marinas and on residents who want to build on wetlands to help pay for programs that protect inland waterways and the Chesapeake Bay, according to administration officials.

The measures would boost the Maryland Department of the Environment's budget as the governor tries to help pay for government through higher fees rather than tax increases. Democrats, however, have been mocking that strategy, accusing Ehrlich of trying to avoid a broader-based solution to the state's fiscal troubles.

Kendl P. Philbrick, the agency's acting secretary, said the measures, which could be presented to the General Assembly in Annapolis this week, would help stifle critics of Ehrlich's environmental policy.

"This is apple pie and motherhood," said Philbrick, a former vice president at Lockheed Martin Corp. who is working to win Senate confirmation as secretary of the agency. "I don't see how they could possibly object to this."

The water management plan calls for a $50 yearly charge assessed on all boat slips at commercial marinas. Another fee, which will set by a regulatory review committee, will charge people who apply for construction permits affecting the state's wetlands. Although the proposals would generate a relatively small amount of money -- less than $1 million for the boaters' fee -- Philbrick said they would provide much-needed revenue for programs protecting the state's 600,000 acres of wetland.

"It will help fully fund the wetlands [protection] program and reduce our general fund alliance," Philbrick said of the proposals, which must be approved by the General Assembly. "Those who use the wetlands will pay for the cost associated with environmental impacts."

Ehrlich (R), who is trying to burnish his environmental credentials, will also call for higher fees on developers seeking to clean up and build on contaminated sites. The new charges will be the most significant part of Ehrlich's plan to reform the state's brownfields law, Philbrick said .

The governor has already proposed a surcharge of $2.50 a month on residents' sewage bills in an effort to raise $66 million a year to modernize the state's largest wastewater plants.

With Maryland facing a $700 million deficit in next year's budget, administration officials say the governor is considering a variety of new or increased fees so he doesn't have to break his campaign promise not to raise sales or income taxes.

Democrats, who have dubbed the sewage surcharge a "flush tax," accuse the governor of trying to dress up taxes as fees to make them more palatable.

"Our citizens are quickly learning user fees and surcharge are nothing more than raising taxes on hard-working families in Maryland," Isiah Leggett, state Democratic Party chairman, told legislators last week.

Democrats, worried about being painted by conservatives as tax-and-spend liberals, could also block the fee increases if Ehrlich does not first get GOP legislators to support them.

"I think people are going to be very leery of any fee bill they vote for unless everyone is willing to go along with it," said Sen. Paula C. Hollinger (D-Baltimore County), chairman of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

Still, several Democrats and environmental leaders say they are pleased with the governor's environmental initiatives.

"I think the governor's environmental agenda is more aggressive than a lot of people thought it would be," said Del. Maggie L. McIntosh (D-Baltimore), chairman of the House Environmental Matters Committee.

Last year, Ehrlich and Senate Democrats engaged in a nasty struggle over the governor's choice to head the Department of the Environment. Democrats eventually blocked Lynn Y. Buhl's confirmation as secretary, and Philbrick was named acting secretary. Philbrick's nomination, expected from Ehrlich soon, must be approved by the Senate.

Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery), who helped torpedo Buhl's nomination, said he is willing to work with the governor this year on his environmental proposals.

"I think the flush tax is headed in the right direction. I think he is making an effort to do something positive," Frosh said.

But Democrats still plan to take aim at Ehrlich's environmental record, including his veto of a bill last year that would have required stores to sell energy-efficiency appliances.

A Washington Post poll published last Sunday found that 63 percent of voters think Ehrlich is doing a good job protecting the environment.

Environmental leaders, whose relationship with the governor has been frosty since he took office last year, are expected to embrace his calls for new fees.

But business leaders, who say they have yet to see Ehrlich's proposal, are apprehensive about all the talk in Annapolis about higher fees.

2004 The Washington Post Company

« Last Edit: February 13, 2004, 07:29:23 AM by mariner » Logged


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