Author Topic: New Jersey Democratic Governor To Sign 'Rain Tax' Into Law  (Read 78 times)

Offline Wake-up!

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New Jersey Democratic Governor To Sign 'Rain Tax' Into Law
« on: February 11, 2019, 09:42:51 am »
[Wake-up!’s comments in italicized brackets]

Just when frustrated residents of New Jersey, one of the most heavily taxed states in the US, thought Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy had already brought the state into the ninth circle of taxation hell with new taxes to save the state's ailing pension system, middle class voters in one of the least affordable states in the country have now been given one more thing to complain about: A tax on the rain. [To be clear, this is headline grabbing rhetoric. It is not a tax on rain. See below. This ‘law’ does not consider how much, how often, or what time of year it rains.]

After a bill authorizing the new local taxes was passed by the state late last month, Murphy is preparing to sign it into law, over the objections of the state's Republicans, according to the New York Post.

The 'rain tax', which is largely supported by Democrats and largely opposed by Republicans, would allow towns, counties and local authorities to set up their own storm water utilities. These newly created arms of local bureaucracy would be empowered to charge property owners a fee based on the amount of non-permeable surface they own (think: parking lots and driveways). [Think any and all hard surfaces, also including rooftops, sidewalks, stone fences, concrete retaining walls, etc.]

The logic behind this is that non-permeable surfaces create runoff when it rains, and that runoff gets polluted as it travels from these surfaces into local sewers, and then on to the state's water ways. [Actually, it is worse than that. Too large a volume of stormwater is viewed as a pollutant.] The revenue generated by these taxes would be used to upgrade the state's stormwater systems, and save the state's already polluted waters from further pollution (though the state would step in and scoop up 5% of all revenues).

The EPA, according to an op-ed published by North, has estimated that a complete overhaul of NJ's stormwater systems would cost $15.6 billion.

[Here is an important backstory the article does not discuss. The Clean Water Act (CWA) was federally implemented across the States from 1974 through 1976. One aspect of CWA was to address stormwater issues by requiring control of run-off through detainment, de-sedimentation (sediment is a pollutant), and slow release. All States were required to develop stormwater control plans and phase them in over time at the county and city levels of government. So, and I’m guessing here, that sometime in the early 1980’s New Joisey implemented Stormwater Abatement regulations through its Comprehensive Land Use Plans, if not through an entirely new branch of State government, a department of ecology or environmental protection. Maybe our occasional visiter to the coffeeshop can add her $.02 worth here. These environmental regulations bring up several points.

 - Since the early 1980’s (if my NJ regulation implementation timeline is reasonable) ALL residential and commercial developments have been required to design and incorporate stormwater management into their site plans. So a Planner or an Engineer has already calculated the amount of hard surface for every lot in every subdivision, and designed swales, detention ponds, or underground vaults in the correct sizes and locations to detain, then slowly release the calculated volume of rain water from a given storm event. (The act of de-sedimentation is accomplished by gravity when the stormwater is detained.) These designs are typically based on 100% detainment of a 24-hour, 25-year storm event. Anything greater or longer than that just passes through the system. The developer has already incurred the costs of design and construction of a system that meets State standards, and had been approved by numerous State and local agencies.

 - So taxpayers are reacting to having a hard surface taxed. Homeowners in a recent subdivision with a 3500 square foot home, 500 square feet of driveway, a three-car garage, and a 300 square foot garden/tool shed, all on a 7000 square foot lot, are having an additional tax burden placed on 76% (5350/7000) of their property, placed on it annually. Bear in mind that zoning by the State required a minimum size house on that lot and has established minimum requirements for the width of the driveway. Just try to build a custom home in a modern subdivision, or within city limits, and get a permeable, gravel driveway permitted! That will not happen. An impermeable surface is required. The property owner is being taxed for issues he/she have no control over, no ability to limit or reduce.

 - Now think how this tax will impact owners of supermarkets, lumberyards, shopping centers, etc. where hard, impermeable surfaces cover 100% of the land. Will the long-term cost of this new law cause low-return on investment businesses to close (as in the older shopping center that already has a 15% vacancy)? What will it do to new business start-ups?

 - Now, what about all the hard surfaces under public administration? Are landowners, including small landowners, subsidizing the ‘rain tax’ on roads, schools, municipal and State buildings, and parks and playgrounds? Think of the miles of wide roads with adjacent concrete sidewalks that wind through subdivisions. Those are designed to minimum widths with wide-radius curves and cul-de-sacs, not for the volume of traffic, as much as for fire department access. And at the time those roads were constructed, the stormwater plans accounted for their surface area, and developers paid for those designs and committed the land to public use. And the land owners had those costs passed on to them when they bought houses. Need they pay again?

 - Why does an approximately 35-year old stormwater system need a 15+ billion dollar overhaul? The system does not have moving parts. What wears out? Were initial designs too small to handle the volume of water now being experienced? Just what needs replaced/retrofitted? Will local governments begin to address the issue by reducing impermeable surface requirements by allowing gravel driveways, gravel roads, narrower roads, or maybe clustering homes in dense ‘pods’ and providing more open space? Or building vertically more often than horizontally? Daylight basement plus two-story homes anybody (the same living space under a much smaller roof)? Or the next time a road needs to be ground up and replaced, use higher tech materials that are permeable (read about recycled-rubber-tire-roads).

  - Outside all my questions above, I suspect a very large percent of the overhaul is the replacement of culverts that are undersized during peak flows and lead to local flooding. Although deemed adequate in size when designed, the culverts are now too small because population and development in-growth has created greater impermeable areas than expected when culverts were initially sized. That, or the design models did not look at growth 35 years out.]

See the entire story for the emerging politics of the new tax at;
« Last Edit: February 13, 2019, 09:46:57 am by Wake-up! »
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