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Jacobs Responds to DNR Official on Boat Fees

Sen. Nancy Jacobs responds to a DNR official's letter to the editor, which was in response to an earlier letter from Jacobs to Patch.

I agree with and that is the need to keep our waterways and channels dredged for our recreational and charter boat owners, and our watermen. Boating is essential to Maryland’s unique character and is vital to our economy; in-state spending by boat owners is estimated at $2 billion and supports $35,000 Maryland jobs.

But I disagree that we need to raise the boating registration fees to pay for the state’s mismanagement of funds.

Between 1991 and 2004, $48 million has been pilfered from the dedicated boating fund and used to shore up the budget shortfall. Although it has mostly been replaced with IOUs through bonds, the fund transfers have caused delays in boating projects, and according to a DNR report, resulted in the elimination of 790 grant programs. Sadly, these bonds they used as replacements for the money must be paid back with interest by Maryland taxpayers. Essentially, that means you’re paying twice.

Until recently, a small but significant portion of the state gas tax was used each year to help keep the Waterway Fund afloat. But that stopped a few years ago when that Transportation Fund was raided and also ran dry.

The money generated by the state’s 23.5 cent gas tax goes to maintaining and building roads and mass transit. But that means boaters are paying into this transportation fund each time they pump a gallon of gas or diesel into their boat but none of it makes its way to the Waterway Fund.

There’s a misconception that boaters will somehow absorb the dramatic fee increase, but this proposal will keep many boaters on land. This leads to diminished returns with fewer boat slip rentals, less maintenance and repair work, and fewer boat sales.

Joe McCarthy March 05, 2012 at 05:12 AM
And thank god for that!
Joe McCarthy March 05, 2012 at 05:15 AM
Thanks Captn. Chesapeake,anymore words of wisdom ?
John Cole March 05, 2012 at 09:44 AM
I will agree with Captain Steve. I have sailed the Bay for the last 20 years in a boat with a draft of 6’ 4”. In all those years I can remember only one spot that I wished to visit that was denied to me. The issue of dredging is not universal across the bay, it is very localized, and a lot of it is not a state problem, but a federal problem. It is planned to dredge the channel from Havre de Grace to Spezutie Island; this is a Federal waterway. The state’s problem is in smaller and more secluded areas, such as the Elk River, and the many small tributaries that feed the bay, where runoff constantly deposits silt. However, as Captain Steve says, the issue is about money. Simply put, if Senator Jacobs’ numbers are correct, and I think they are probably very close, a contribution to the State of $2 billion and the employment of 35,000 people is not insignificant. As we go through these tough economic times, we are watching the boating industry shrink. Any increase in boaters’ fees will accelerate this shrinkage, to the detriment of the state. We have seen this before, when in 1990, the feds introduced a 10% luxury tax. That killed the boating industry in a heartbeat. The feds were forced to repeal the law in 1996, because of the damage it had done to revenues and employment. Let’s not repeat such stupidity.
Brent March 05, 2012 at 12:10 PM
Well should we also be comparing boat registration fees with the rest of motor vehicle registration? I'm sure there are plenty of motorists wondering why their registration fees are 6 times the cost for their car or truck than that of a boat.
Roland March 05, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Capt steve.. I said as much as 7'. I have transported boats, raced them, sailed them, motored them, owned them, and worked them for more than 30 years. So as a courtesy from one skipper to another let me rephrase the statement....However when one gets to the larger 'yachts', motor or sail, 35' and longer then the shoaling would interfere as they can draw as much as 7'.

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