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Controversial NJ ‘rain tax’ bill awaits governor’s signature

Storm Drain (Robert Lawton/WikiCommons)
February 25, 2019

New Jersey lawmakers passed a “rain tax” bill that would tax property owners for pollution and flooding control that is worsened because of an increase in precipitation they say is caused by climate change.

The bill A2694/S1073 would curb the risks associated with stormwater runoff that is harming New Jersey’s waterways, according to the Cape May County Herald. New Jersey residents are currently paying some of the highest taxes in the country and now the bill, which would increase taxes even more, awaits Gov. Phil Murphy’s signature.

The bill, which was introduced by Democrat State Sen. Bob Smith, won with a 45-31 vote by the state Assembly and then by a vote of 25-11 by the Senate.

Just exactly how much each property owner will pay would depend on their property’s number of waterproof surfaces, according to NewJersey.com.

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The bill has many opponents. Republican Assemblyman Christopher DePhillips said, “The last thing this state needs is more debt and another runaway tax. Especially one that taxes the weather.”

He said he would have supported a tax credit aimed at property owners that handle the situations on their own.

The bill would grant counties and municipalities the power to “authorize the utilities to charge fees and issue bonds in order to finance the creation, maintenance, and operation of the utilities,” the Cape May County Herald stated.

Jeff Tittel, the director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, an environmental group in support of the bill, said, “The biggest source of pollution we face is from stormwater runoff. This legislation is an important step forward to help clean up our waterways and protect us from flooding.”

Proponents of the bill say the stormwater infrastructure suffers from “years of neglect and lack of investment,” NewJersey.com said.

Jane Kenny, a co-chair of Jersey Water Works said, “Handling stormwater is a complex problem. It requires a multifaceted solution. Recognizing the importance of maintaining stormwater infrastructure, and providing the funding to do so, is necessary to prevent flooding from taking an even bigger toll on New Jersey families and businesses. Stormwater utilities are one key way to accomplish this.”

Republican Assemblyman Hal Wirths said, “I don’t know if a snow tax is coming next year and I’m not being sarcastic. This is just another tax, a rain tax on the people of New Jersey and I urge my colleagues to vote no on this because it is just never-ending down here.”

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A report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said that stormwater management in New Jersey has an estimated total of $15.6 billion.

The taxes collected from property owners would pay for plans that slash runoff and stormwater-related flooding. Five percent of the taxes collected would go directly to the Department of Environmental Protection to aid in stormwater management efforts.