Since the recession took hold, local jurisdictions have left no stone unturned in their quest to raise money. One intriguing idea gaining currency in Howard County is an impact tax on development. This sounds a lot like the impact fees builders pay county governments to help with improvements for roads, schools and sewer facilities in and around new development. But there's an important difference -- an impact tax can be used for any project anywhere in the county.
The significance of this shading can't be overemphasized at a time of plummeting tax revenues and dwindling state aid to local jurisdictions. County Executive Charles I. Ecker is pushing the idea as a centerpiece of Howard's long overdue adequate facilities ordinance, a measure that would forbid building in areas with overburdened schools and roads. The tax would be imposed on all commercial and residential building and go into a fund for road maintenance and construction. It could be withdrawn only if the county were willing and able to contribute twice as much to a given project.
We endorse this idea. It would create a pool of ready revenue for capital projects and more equitably spread the burden of road and school construction. It also would give the county flexibility to use the money where the need is greatest.