In 2020, it’s been challenging to check the news feed each morning without bracing for a little discomfort, but today I didn’t wince as much. There were some encouraging reports.
That includes the story about the New Jersey lawmaker who axed a proposal to hike the boat sales tax. Governor Phil Murphy—after frustrating boat dealers, builders and owners around the Garden State with plans to increase the sales tax on all new and used boat sales—signed a $32.7 billion budget without that provision. Had the proposal gone through, it would have had a big impact, as Kim Kavin reported in Soundings last month.
Last summer, Murphy said the state was in trouble due to Covid-19. With a $5.7 billion shortfall in projected revenue, tax policy changes would be necessary. So, he suggested pulling the tax cap on boat sales, which has been fixed at $20,000 since 2016, no matter the vessel’s value. Boat buyers would then pay 6.625 percent on the full price. So, if you bought a $400,000 boat, that tax would jump from $20,000 to $26,500, an increase of more than 30 percent.
Fortunately, Murphy’s proposal landed on the cutting room floor. Now, the hope is that other states will refrain from making similar proposals. As the marine industry has learned in the past, this type of increase just ends up hurting the businesses that support boating, and the people who love the sport.
There was more good news in my feed. While it’s no surprise that 2020 has been a tough year for time-honored annual traditions, there’s a piece of holiday pageantry that will go on: lighted boat parades.
Organizers for a few Chesapeake Bay parades confirmed the events will get underway, including the Eastport Yacht Club Lights Parade, which typically sees a turnout of about 40 boats, power and sail, in Annapolis Harbor. It’s been running for 40 years and has won USA Today’s “10 Best Holiday Parades” poll. Hopefully a parade near your homeport is scheduled to push off the dock, too.
And one last item made me smile. While cruising Lake Superior, a married couple in Wisconsin found a small wooden boat. It carried the address of an elementary school and had been slipped into the water 27 years prior. The boat held a message: “Please put me back in water.” The couple did as they were told.
This article was originally published in the December 2020 issue.