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Bill would raise boater fees in Maryland

Maryland boat owners could pay higher registration fees for the first time in nearly three decades, thanks to a bill filed last week that would replace the flat $24 boat registration fee paid every two years with fees ranging from $50 to $700, depending on the size of the boat.

The increases would be phased in over four years, beginning in October, for Maryland's 191,000 registered boat owners, the Baltimore Sun reported.

The money would go to replenish the state's Waterway Improvement Fund and pay for maritime safety efforts.

The measure is the latest fee increase that the administration of Gov. Martin O’Malley has proposed as the state looks to make up for lost revenue and maintain services in a weak economy. Other controversial proposals include O’Malley’s plan to increase the so-called “flush tax” on water use to pay for sewage treatment improvements and to extend the state's 6 percent sales tax to gasoline.

The state last attempt to increase boat registration fees in 2007, but the proposal died in committee.

“We're not doing this to create something new; we're doing this so that we can maintain what we have,” Department of Natural Resources boating services director Bob Gaudette said, citing the need to keep channels and boat ramps safe and reliable.

Under the plan, the registration for a boat under 16 feet would rise to $50 every two years by 2016. Registering a boat from 16 feet to 32 feet — the most popular size in Maryland — would cost $125. Vessels 32 to 45 feet would cost $250. Vessels 45 feet to 65 feet would cost $500. The registration fee for the approximately 52 yachts over 65 feet would be $700.

All of the new fees would be paid every two years.

In addition to the registration fees, state officials are seeking to raise the annual cost of a boat dealer license from $25 to $100. That fee was last changed in 1965.

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