Boating tax cap deserves study

September 09, 2012

We couldn't agree more with The Sun's recent editorial caution against changing the revenue stream that feeds the Waterway Improvement Fund without first researching the likely outcome ("Bailing out yachts?" Sept. 4).

It is accurate to say that the Marine Trades Association has long advocated increasing the number of boats registering in Maryland. No one benefits more than members of the boating industry and the boating communities from a well-funded and robust Waterway Improvement Fund. That is why our continued goal is to partner with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to increase boat registrations in the state. Based on the recent success in Florida, where a cap on their tax generated in excess of $13.46 million in direct sales tax revenue for the state, we believe Maryland should thoroughly examine this alternative. In Maryland, more boats mean more jobs — every six boats registered in Maryland leads to more than one full-time job. It is important to note that Maryland currently registers only about 85 boats that are larger than 60 feet in length; with an industry statistic of 10 percent of a vessel's value being spent on maintenance, repair and storage each year, the spending and job generation could be huge.

All this said, it is still critical that we have numbers to back up this theory. During the last legislative session, the Marine Trades Association of Maryland supported the DNR proposal to increase registration fees. Since the end of session, we have been working with the department to put together a study to look at a number of issues, including the economic impact of capping the excise tax on both the Waterway Improvement Fund and the state's General Fund through tourism, sales tax dollars and fuel tax dollars. If Florida's successes can be duplicated here, we will all stand to benefit. Let's keep Maryland's long-standing maritime industry alive for the future.

Susan Zellers and George Dunigan, Annapolis

The writers are, respectively, executive director and president of the Marine Trades Association of Maryland.

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