Plan calls for smaller hike in Maryland boater fees - Trade Only Today

Plan calls for smaller hike in Maryland boater fees

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The Maryland Department of Natural Resources will propose amendments to House Bill 1307 to substantially reduce the proposed cost of registering a boat in Maryland, the department announced.

The department introduced the legislation to address the state’s boating infrastructure needs. The original proposal would have replaced the flat $24 boat registration fee paid every two years with fees ranging from $50 to $700, depending on the size of the boat.

Under the proposed changes, it would cost $25 every two years to register boats under 16 feet in Maryland. It would cost $50 every two years to register boats of 16 to less than 21 feet; $75 every two years to register boats of 21 to less than 32 feet; $100 every two years to register boats of 32 to less than 45 feet; $200 every two years to register boats of 45 to 65 feet; and $300 every two years to register boats of more than 65 feet.

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, which means the new costs would start in 2013.

In addition, amendments would increase the one-time boat title price to $35, as well as some other costs to boat dealers.

“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,” Marine Trades Association of Maryland executive director Susan Zellers said in a statement.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources substantially reduced the amount of the proposed cost structure after public outcry against the original proposal.

“We hope these proposed fee reductions strike a better balance among the competing factors of affordability to boaters, recession impacts on boat sales and the growing unmet needs to maintain our boating assets,” department secretary John Griffin said in a statement. “With some of the most magnificent waterways in the country, we must work together to keep boating safe and enjoyable.”

The cost of registering a boat in Maryland has not increased since 1983.

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 state’s program for financing projects and activities that promote, develop and maintain Maryland’s waterways for the boating public.

The Department of Natural Resources needs $41 million annually 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. The department 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.

Fund revenue has declined by 50 percent, to $15 million because of a decrease in boat sales, leaving Maryland unable to pay for these projects. The department said it was only able to fund 11 percent of the state and local grant requests for FY 2012.

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