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From the Desk of
County Commissioner Paul Smith

 The State Wages War on Rural Counties

Lt. Governor Anthony Brown announced on January 5, 2012 that it was the Governor’s number one priority to increase the number of jobs in Maryland. He also stated that the Governor also wants to modify onerous and costly regulations. These stated objectives are good, but the Governor’s actual policies and regulations are killing job growth in Maryland. The Governor’s policies with respect to septic systems, preventing growth in rural areas, increasing taxes, and regulating stormwater are all anti-job policies that will ruin the economies in Maryland’s rural counties. One of the roles of the BOCC is to fight to protect our interests in these areas. We are doing that.

PlanMaryland—War on Septic Systems. PlanMaryland is a fanatical environmental manifesto that is totally oblivious to economic factors, including jobs. PlanMaryland addresses environmental issues, but ignores economic issues. PlanMaryland will hurt job growth. It is a declaration of war on rural counties because it seeks to control where and how those counties grow, and it seeks to discourage or prevent the use of new septic systems. The war against septic systems is driven by environmentalist extremists who believe that a family on a septic system introduces ten times more Nitrogen into the Bay than a family that is on a sewer system. Reputable scientists refute this, pointing out that it is based upon faulty assumptions, incomplete data and flawed analysis. Scientists conclude that sewage treatment systems and septic systems each put comparable amounts of Nitrogen into the Chesapeake Bay. The Governor’s flawed policy will drive up the cost of housing in rural areas, but it will not improve the Bay.

PlanMaryland—Prevent Growth in Rural Areas. The Governor’s model for growth in Maryland is that whatever residential growth occurs should be vertical growth in existing developed areas with public sewer, and to prevent new, single family homes being built in undeveloped areas. The Governor calls this approach a war on sprawl. But his definition of sprawl would include a farmer who would subdivide 100 acres of farm land and turn it into ten farmettes, each on well and septic. That is not my definition of sprawl. The Governor’s goal is to prevent the farmer from developing his land. He wants to block the development of all Ag land and open spaces. He wants most of the new homes to be condominiums that are at least 3-6 stories high in areas that are connected to public water and sewer. I can understand the advantages of this, but the only place in Frederick County that would be willing to accommodate this would be along Carroll Creek in Frederick City. None of the other municipalities want such condominiums. Therefore, the result of this approach in Frederick County is to block or to attempt to block farmers from using their land the way they want. This is an attack on property rights, and it is an attack on reasonable residential growth policies.

Increasing the Sales Tax and the Gas Tax. The Governor’s desire to increase the state sales tax from 6 cents to 7 cents will not attract employers to Maryland. Neither will increasing the gas tax in Maryland by 15 cents per gallon. In the short run, increasing taxes to meet state expenses may close the spending gap, but it will hurt Maryland businesses and stifle job growth.

Stormwater Regulations. Finally, Governor O’Malley’s proposed regulations of stormwater (part of the Maryland Department of Environment’s [MDE’s] Watershed Implementation Plan [WIP]) for the Chesapeake Bay are currently excessive and punitive. If not changed, these regulations will not only stop jobs from coming to Maryland, but they will cause existing jobs to flee from Maryland. There are four flaws in the State’s current, proposed stormwater regulations: (1) They have been drawn up without any thought having been given to their cost or feasibility. (2) The regulations apply to only a small source of water pollutants, such that even if there was total compliance they would not result in only minimal improvement in the Bay water. (3) The scientific basis for the required "retrofits" is built upon flawed and false assumptions. And (4) the proposed regulations require more stringent requirements than what the EPA requires, and they do not encourage the more cost-effective measures. For example, the proposed regulations do not give sufficient credit for removing lawn fertilizers (a known major causes of Nitrogen in stormwater runoff). These four problems combine to make the proposed stormwater regulations so expensive that they are oppressive and punitive. They are projected to cost Frederick County over $4 Billion in five years.

The Governor’s war on septics and property rights violates his stated number one priority to grow jobs, and it violates his stated plan to reduce burdensome and costly regulations. Attracting jobs to Maryland is more complicated than just stating "bring your jobs to Maryland."

There is a disconnect between the Governor’s stated priority to bring jobs to the state and his policies which will actually drive jobs away from the state. As long as environmental fanaticism drives the Governor’s policies, his administration will continue to stifle job growth and strangle us with oppressive regulations.

Read other articles from Frederick County Commissioners