Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Stormwater Stet in Howard County

Despite making it a near corner-stone of his campaign and a constant platform of criticism for his opponent, Courtney Watson, County Executive Kittleman will be budgeting and spending money derived from the "Rain Tax" this year.  And he's likely to do so for the next three years as well.

Since the 2014 Election, bills to repeal or modify the stormwater management utility fee have been proposed by Governor Larry Hogan and Democratic County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.  While Governor Hogan's bill may be little more than a symbolic gesture, Executive Kamenetz saw his proposal to reduce the stormwater fee by one-third pass the Baltimore County Council Monday night and he will surely sign it into law.

As we're rounding into the 100th day of the Kittleman Administration, the writing is on the wall that we won't be seeing the fee repealed or replaced here.  

County Executive Kittleman rarely, if ever, fell into the political gamesmanship that prompted candidates to tell voters they were being taxed based on the rain that fell on their property.  He opposed the fee based on the manner in which it was applied, which just happened to fit in with the hyperbolic narrative being maintained by the GOP.  But with perfect being the enemy of the good, and a Chesapeake Bay that will not wait for lawmakers to craft law that pleases everyone, the Stormwater Management Utility Fee was, and continues to be, a critical step towards protecting Maryland's bay for future generations.

If a repeal/replace/modify bill were going to be passed, we likely would have seen it.  Additional smoke signs were thrown up by the County's Spending Affordability committee, which recommended keeping the fee in the absence of an alternative to provide for the $10 million in infrastructure improvements that the County will be required to make under EPA Guidelines.  

The County Executive can count to three and he knows he doesn't have the votes in the County Council to pass a repeal.  Recent events have shown the relationship between the Executive and Council become more testy, which suggests there may not be the swing votes necessary to pass any large policies with the current 4-1 Democratic majority.  

And lest I be accused of speaking out of both sides of my mouth, I applaud the County Executive for his approach on this matter.  We can all be very sure that he is taking heat from his friends in the Republican party for not holding the line on the "rain tax" and kicking up dirt over cuts to education funding.  Less than 100 days in, the County Executive has shown early signs that he will put his role as executive ahead of partisan considerations, even if that dampens the enthusiasm of his base (a critical factor in his surprise win).  This approach to judicious governing is much different than what we saw from Senator Allan Kittleman, who was known to introduce bills that had little to no chance of passing the General Assembly simply to communicate his position on certain matters.

The concern inside Camp Kittleman should be that all of the rhetoric and emphatic stump speeches given during the campaign can now be turned on their head.  If this was so outrageous and so harmful to Howard County businesses, where's the beef?  If it was worth campaigning on, it must be worth fighting for.

That's all for today.  Have a great Tuesday doing what you love!