Maryland marine industry advocates have said high state excise taxes on yachts are driving business to neighboring states, but an editorial in The Baltimore Sun maintains that lowering the tax is a bad choice since it would only affect "the super-rich."
“Few places in the U.S. are better suited for boating and the state's geographic blessing has produced economic rewards for its citizens — an estimated 35,000 jobs produced by a $2 billion industry,” the editorial stated.
The marine industry is asking the Maryland General Assembly to reduce or cap the state’s excise tax on boats next year so the state will be better able to compete with neighboring states, such as Delaware. But that idea might not appeal to average boat owners or middle-class taxpayers, the editorial cautioned.
“It would be a tax cut for the super-rich who, incidentally, represent a very small percentage of the boating public,” the newspaper wrote.
“The excise tax is the only source of funding for Maryland's Waterway Improvement Fund, which pays to maintain public navigation channels, hundreds of boating facilities and thousands of navigation buoys and markers,” the editorial stated. “Cut funding, and boats will find much of the waterways inaccessible as channels fill up with silt.”
The fund took in $14.2 million this year, down from $15.4 million last year. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources estimates the cost of maintaining boating infrastructure at $41 million and climbing, in part because of cutbacks at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the newspaper said.
“The underlying cause of the boating industry's woes is not the excise tax but the economy,” the newspaper wrote. “Boats are a luxury, not a necessity. And most recently, high fuel prices have caused some boaters to keep their vessels on dry land. If there are steps Maryland can take to help the industry, they ought to be explored. But neglecting boating infrastructure ought not to be one of them.”