ANNAPOLIS -- Maryland legislators have been asked this year to raise the income tax, the sales tax, the capital gains tax, the cigarette tax, the tax on snack foods and the gasoline tax (which included a tax on a tax).
Now comes the tire tax.
The measure, passed 17-3 by the Environmental Matters Committee and headed for debate on the House floor today, would require service stations and tire dealers to levy a fee of up to $1 on every tire sold in Maryland at the retail level.
The estimated $4 million raised by the tax would be used to clean up scrap tire dumps around the state and to develop tire recycling centers under a program handled by the state Department of the Environment.
Under provisions of the bill, co-sponsored by Delegate Ronald A. Guns, D-Cecil -- the chairman of the committee -- and Delegate Virginia M. Thomas, D-Howard, service stations and other tire dealers would have to dispose of scrap tires through haulers who would have to be licensed by the state and who would be required to take the tires to designated recycling centers.
"We're going to control the product like it is a hazardous material," said Delegate Thomas. She said the danger of a tire dump catching fire and burning for weeks, spewing toxic fumes into the air and polluting ground water, could be far worse than the lingering stump fire that has been bothering Baltimore County residents in recent weeks.
She said as many as 15 million abandoned tires are "haphazardly stored" around Maryland, many of them in about two dozen tire dumps that have been discovered in various parts of the state. The bill, she said, is designed to raise the money needed to dispose of those tires and to curtail the dumping of tires in the future.
Charles E. McKeag III, executive director of the Maryland Tire Dealers' Association, said members of his organization initially worried the tire tax would be applied at the wholesale level, which would have been more difficult to implement from the industry standpoint.
But after working with officials from the Department of the Environment and Maryland Environmental Service, he said his organization, which includes such companies as Merchants Tire, Dunlop Tire and Rubber and Stidham Tire, was supportive.