Sen. Rich Madaleno and Del. Shane Robinson sponsored bills titled the “Poultry Fair Share Act” to tax chickens at 5 cents apiece. The estimated $15 million raised would help the State pay for the dealing with the environmental consequences of poultry farming. As the Baltimore Sun explained in its editorial:
[P]oultry waste is an enormous problem in this state because of the harm it does when it runs off land and into streams, rivers and eventually, the Chesapeake Bay. It’s a major source of nitrogen and phosphorus, particularly in Eastern Shore tributaries.
A hysterical Eastern Shore Republican has tossed around the threat of hundreds of thousands of feral chickens roaming the State when the industry closes down due to the proposed tax:
When you think you’re a statesman in Maryland, you decide to write an environmental bill that taxes chickens. When you tax chickens, you close down the chicken industry on the Eastern Shore. When the chicken industry closes down, 300,000 feral chickens attack nursing homes in your district, feeding on your parents.
Less frothing at the mouth opponents express concern about how the new tax would impact farmers and the 15,000 jobs related to chicken farming in the State. Gov. O’Malley said he’d veto the bill if it reached his desk. Del. Robinson has now withdrawn his bill, so one assumes it’s dead for the year.
But the bill nonetheless raises an important concern. Republicans believe that business should respond to market forces and oppose new taxes as anti-business in general. Fine. But when farmers or companies allow so much chicken poop to find its way into the Bay, they’re dumping their costs on everyone.
In effect, this industry wants us to tax everyone else to clean up their mess or just allow the problem to continue. The real tax is not on the farmers but on the rest of us who subsidize this profitable business by letting them dump this waste on the public at no cost. And that should generate far more outrage than the proposed tax.
The State may have chickened out this year but this isn’t just a chicken shit problem.