Volume 12, Issue 16 ~ April 15-21, 2004
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For Chesapeake Country, a Winning Session

There’s a frenzy of finger pointing and fretting in the aftermath of the 2004 General Assembly, which completed its work this week.

But it looks to us like Marylanders got about what can be expected from divided government: stalemate over monumental shifts in public policy.

That’s not all bad, considering that those changes were jarring tax increases that most of us didn’t relish swallowing and legalized gambling that we probably don’t need.

We’ll leave it to others to slice and dice the politics of what went on, which always produces a rich stew when the legislature adjourns. Gambling, too, can be debated another day, but we do note that the unseemly confusion of ideas on how and where slots would be permitted did little to persuade us that slots are the remedy we need.

For now, we’ll point out for the record our view that the session has been a winner for Chesapeake Bay, thanks to passage of the so-called flush tax.

In watching government up close for several decades now, we’ve learned that nothing usually happens until a crisis. And that’s what’s occurring with the flood of nitrogen pollution pouring into the Bay.

Last summer’s crab-killing, fish-stunting dead zones turned the Chesapeake into a parfait with layers where nothing could live. More such hypoxic waters are expected this summer.

It will take a few years, but the $30-a-year assessment for every Maryland household will establish a fund to fix the sewage treatment plants that contribute heavily to this unwanted nutrient load. We hope it will also help septic users — who’ll also pay — find and pay for the best ways to upgrade their often prehistoric systems. Let’s pay attention now to make sure that the proceeds don’t get eaten up in administrative costs or diverted to other causes.

We applaud Gov. Robert Ehrlich for stepping up to engineer a plan of this magnitude and the General Assembly for making it palatable for passage. There’ve been far too many studies and lame excuses over the years about the limits of what government could do.

The new law makes it clear that Chesapeake Bay is a recreation and economic treasure that belongs to all of Maryland. No matter what is said in legislative postmortems, we in Chesapeake country should count ourselves winners.

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Last updated April 15, 2004 @ 1:12am.