In Maryland, proposed boating-related fee increases have sparked public outcry. After receiving feedback from stakeholders, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently proposed amendments to House Bill 1307 to substantially reduce the proposed cost of registering a boat in Maryland.
Since 1965, the State’s 5 percent excise tax on vessels has served as the major source of funding for the Waterway Improvement Fund. The fund provides funding for projects and activities that promote, develop and maintain Maryland’s waterways for the boating public.
According to DNR, a $41 million annual budget is necessary to maintain boating services and operations. This includes dredging and maintaining 265 channels, more than 400 public boating facilities, 3,600 buoys and marine police operations. DNR is also responsible for removing hazardous abandoned boats and debris, funding marine sewage pumpout stations, local fire and rescue boats and providing icebreaking services for boaters when necessary.
The recent decrease in boat sales led to a 50 percent decline in revenues. As a result, DNR funded 11 percent of State and local grant requests for FY 2012.
A similar budget issue involves channel maintenance. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently indicated that they can no longer provide the estimated $6 million in annual federal funds needed to maintain more than 60 shallow water boating channels used by recreational boaters, commercial watermen and other marine-related businesses.
In response to public input, DNR will propose to substantially reduce the amount of the proposed cost structure, which is based on the size of the boat.
Boat registration currently costs $24 every two years, a level that has not increased since 1983. Under the proposed changes, boats under 16 feet would cost $25 every two years to register in Maryland. Boats between 16 to less than 21 feet would cost $50 every two years, 21 to less than 32 feet would cost $75 every two years, 32 to less than 45 feet would cost $100 every two years, 45 to 65 feet would cost $200 every two years and boats more than 65 feet would cost $300 every two years.
The bill also includes a voluntary non-motorized decal for boats such as kayaks and canoes for $12 every two years. The proposal eliminates the second tier of phased-in registration increases, meaning the new costs would start in 2013. In addition, amendments will increase the one-time boat title price to $35 as well as some other costs to boat dealer.
Susan Zellers, executive director of the Marine Trades Association of Maryland responded by saying: “We appreciate the Department taking into consideration the concerns of the Maryland Boating Industry by significantly reducing the proposed boat registration costs to a level that is acceptable to our boat dealers and marinas.”
source: MD DNR