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In this June 25 photo, Gov. Larry Hogan discusses test results showing that an aggressive form of lymphoma has not spread to his bone marrow. (Bryan P. Sears/The Daily Record)

Hogan announces reduction, elimination of fees

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Larry Hogan announced he will eliminate or reduce 100 fees across state government that he said Maryland residents were unnecessarily paying or being overcharged.

The fee reductions, totaling about $10.2 million annually, will come from reductions or elimination of fees including those charged to the homeless, businesses, vehicle emissions test fees, state park fees, child support interception fees, and fees charged to real estate brokers, sales people, pharmacists, outpatient surgery centers and food manufacturing and processing licenses.

“Reducing and eliminating these taxes tolls and fees not only helps streamline state government, it has a direct impact on the livelihood of citizens,” Hogan said.

[Full list of Gov. Larry Hogan’s fee reductions and eliminations.]

Included in the savings announced by Hogan was the previously announced elimination of the $1.50 per month fee charged to  EZ-Pass customers who have accounts registered in Maryland. Nearly $6 million of the annual savings the governor attributed to the reductions and eliminations will come from the elimination of the electronic toll system monthly fees approved in May.

“These fee reductions will not impact the operations of any agency. In many agencies, we saw many were collecting more than what was needed. In other words, overcharging taxpayers. In other areas we saw the need to deliver relief and we believe that this money will do more good in the hands of taxpayers that in the hands of the government,” Hogan said.

The plan also calls for the elimination of the $750 state fee for adoption applications and reducing fees charged to homeless adults and children seeking a state identification card. Adults and children will now pay $1 for the card compared to the $24 and $15, respectively, that was charged.

“Charging $15 to a homeless child for an ID doesn’t make any sense whatsoever to me,” Hogan said. “Homeless advocates have been fighting to reduce that fee for a long, long time and we’re getting it done.”

Additionally, the governor announced plans to cut or eliminate 115 separate fees charged by the Department of Agriculture for animal health diagnostics.

“There is far more that we want to do,” Hogan said. “These we can do without the legislature.”

But the General Assembly will get a chance to review a number of the fees that are established by regulations.

“I am sure (the Maryland Joint Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review Committee) will look closely,” said Del. Eric G. Luedtke, D-Montgomery County and a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. “And will check to make sure that none of these are set by legislation rather than regulation.”

Luedtke said some of the fee reductions were “pretty damn great.”

“Cutting the cost for a homeless ID card to $1?” Luedtke said. “Absolutely a good idea.”

But Luedtke said the plan also comes with some concerns. Many of the fees that are assessed by the state are used to pay for inspections and enforcement efforts and to make those operations self-supporting.

“Without asbestos fees, will MDE have the money to enforce asbestos inspection and removal?” Luedtke said. “Same with storage tanks and discharge permits. There’s little point in having strong environmental laws if we don’t have the staff to enforce them. And when you’re talking about asbestos and oil leaks, the state damn well needs to get it right. I think AELR will be asking careful questions about those.”