A legislative committee is calling for tripling Maryland's so-called flush tax so that the state's environment department can make more progress in upgrading sewage treatment plants, replacing failing septic tanks and controlling stormwater.

The 28-member task force, which Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley appointed to advise him on sewage and stormwater matters, voted to double the $2.50 monthly fee for 2012 and increase it to $7.50 a month by 2015. Marylanders on public sewage systems pay the fee with their utility bills, while homeowners on septic systems pay it with their property taxes. The task force also said the state would be more likely to meet its Bay cleanup goals by the EPA's target date of 2025 instead of O'Malley's target of 2020.

Passed in 2004 and signed into law by Gov. Robert Ehrlich, the first Republican to hold that office in three decades, the flush tax was landmark legislation that prompted politicians to put their differences aside and win a victory for the Chesapeake. It was supposed to raise millions of dollars to first upgrade the 65 largest wastewater treatment plants, and then tackle the small ones. But the fund is $385 million short, and engineering and retrofitting costs are getting more expensive.

A spokesman said the governor will consider the recommendation.