Thursday, October 19, 2006

Green Governor's Gimmick?

Today's Baltimore Examiner offers a review of Gov. Robert Ehrlich's environmental record as part the daily's series on the gubernatorial candidates. The piece says "there is little to justify" Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley's accusation "that the governor’s vaunted Bay program, financed by the so-called 'flush tax,' is actually a ploy to aid developers."

In question is the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund, a fee on sewer and septic systems earmarked for the Bay. The program distributes grants to local governments to improve infrastructure, such as sewer systems, that impact the watershed. O'Malley, the governor's Democratic challenger, claims Ehrlich designed the program to enable increased development. It's not about saving the Bay, O'Malley argues, but a gimmick to benefit developers. Ehrlich, joined today by The Examiner, denies the charge.

Ehrlich's motives for establishing the flush tax will forever remain known to him alone. But we can certainly check if developers have benefited from the program. And they have.

Many of the communities that received grants to upgrade their sewer systems took the opportunity to expand its capacity, according to The Baltimore Sun. Increased capacity allows these systems to sustain larger populations, which means more development. Many of these towns are far from major metropolitan centers, which making them opportune hotspots for suburban sprawl. Look at the case of Elkton. Mayor Joseph L. Fisona said that enlarging his city's plant, which enabled construction of a 2,500-home sprawl development, would have been impossible if not for the state grant.

from The League: Reassembled

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