Already Drowning in Taxes, NJ Residents Could Get Soaked With Proposed 'Rain Tax'

P. Gardner Goldsmith | February 13, 2019
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New Jersey politicians aren’t helping reform its image as an unattractive place to live or work. In January, I reported on the fact that the “Garden State” had the highest “flight” rate of any in the US. This followed on the heels of reports in July of last year that the government of NJ had voted in favor of literally funding press outlets, which is otherwise known as state-backed propaganda. And now, not even the rain is safe from the voracious appetite of this high-tax monster of a government.

Mary Kay Linge reports for the NY Post that the titanic NJ Governor Phil Murphy (D) is ready to sign into law the “rain tax”.

The law allows each of the state’s 565 municipalities to set up its own public stormwater utility. The new bureaucracies will build and manage sewer systems to treat pollutant-filled stormwater runoff.

This would cost billions, writes Linge, and – surprise! – the monopolistic utilities the cities create could levy enormous fines on “properties with large parking lots, long driveways, or big buildings – which create the most runoff.”

And guess who gets a five percent cut of all of the booty?

Yeah, you got it, the state.

That’s a lot of cash.

What a shock…

And Linge offers keen historical information about this.

The idea for the new fee goes back to 2010, when President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered states whose rivers and streams flow into the Chesapeake Bay to drastically cut sediment pollution. Maryland was the first to fall into line, with a 2012 law that charged cleanup costs to property owners — and sparked taxpayer fury. Republican Larry Hogan’s promise to repeal the “rain tax” helped sweep him into the governor’s mansion in 2014.

But there’s something deeper to observe than the other examples of this, or the Obama connection, more than the terrible burdens and money-feedback to the state of NJ. This story goes beyond the fact that the US EPA is not truly sanctioned by the US Constitution. Sure, if there were disputes between states concerning runoff or pollution that could be considered addressable by the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution, there might be a place for the feds to step in after the fact.

But the larger issue here has to do with tort law and the ancient foundations of that form of law.

In essence, the ancient Common Law tradition of tortious claims was that a person could bring a tortious case for damages against another if he or she could show the court he or his property had been damaged. If he or she could not show damage, there was no case.

In these cases of “runoff” damage being preemptively fined – a fine applied to paved areas and buildings that may or may not allow runoff to damage something in some future time – no one has cited any actual damage to property. So, under tortious standards, no fine should be levied.

Additionally, tort law pertains to human beings, and since the state is not a person, no actual person has been damaged when the state claims harm. The idea is that tort claims are supposed to be for restitution, and the state is not a person, so "fines" or "levies" are unwarranted.

As a result, the entire paradigm of state fines or levies for “damages” to any government property, or on behalf of unnamed, amorphous “citizens” is atrociously faulty, and represents a towering rise in the power of the state over individuals.

Of course, it’s doubtful that the Governor of New Jersey cares, or even knows, about this principle.

But some of us do, and when we see money-grabs like this, we remember, and offer the info to others, so they can remember, as well.