By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor |
OOIDA’s lawsuit against the state of New York’s Department of Taxation and Finance was certified Sept. 1 as a class action by the state’s Supreme Court, which is the state’s trial court. The lawsuit challenges certain highway taxes as unconstitutional and discriminatory against out-of-state truckers who have paid the taxes in order to do business in New York.
The court found that a class action was appropriate due to the potential number of trucking businesses affected.
OOIDA’s attorneys filed the complaint nearly a year ago in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Albany. The action names the defendants as the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, Thomas H. Mattox (individually and in his official capacity as commissioner), along with the State of New York; and Andrew Cuomo (individually and in his official capacity as governor of the State of New York).
Named plaintiffs in the case are OOIDA and OOIDA Members Bryan Spoon dba Spoon Trucking, Steve Bixler, Jack McComb and William “Lewie” Pugh.
The class action lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of taxes that impose $15 for a certificate of registration and a $4 decal charge on all trucks using New York state highways. The taxes are imposed not only on New York-based trucks, which are driven proportionately higher miles in New York, but also on trucks based outside of New York, which are driven mostly in states other than New York.
OOIDA President Jim Johnston says that trucks owned and/or operated outside of New York travel fewer miles on New York highways than trucks owned and/or operated in New York. The imposition of the challenged taxes results in a higher per mile tax rate being imposed on out-of-state trucks.
OOIDA charges that constitutes an undue burden on interstate commerce in violation of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Johnston says that OOIDA’s action asks the court to declare those taxes unconstitutional and therefore invalid and not enforceable. The complaint also asks for injunctive relief, refunds and other appropriate relief on behalf of the plaintiffs.
OOIDA’s legal action will represent a class of all interstate motor carriers who reside and operate trucking equipment primarily outside New York who have paid or will pay the taxes.
Johnston called the certification of the class action a “very positive development.”
By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor
The California Legislature approved a bill to change how the state raises revenue for transportation work.State senators voted 23-11 to sign off on changes to a bill that would set up a task force to develop a voluntary program to test a new way to get money from highway users. SB1077 now awaits Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature. Assembly lawmakers already approved it on a 46-26 vote.
Specifically, the bill would authorize a pilot program in the state to assess the practicality of taxing truckers and other drivers based on vehicle miles traveled in the state. The VMT tax could replace the state’s fuel tax as people are driving vehicles that get better mileage. Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, says the excise tax is “not a long-term viable funding solution.” He describes his bill as “a critical first step toward California considering a mileage-based fee” as an alternative to the excise tax on fuels. Oregon and Washington are testing similar programs.
DeSaulnier has said his proposed pilot program is a reasonable approach to address the impending fiscal cliff for transportation funding. “We have to look at these kinds of things as Oregon and Washington have in anticipation of this cliff we’re about to go off,” DeSaulnier told Senate lawmakers prior to a floor vote. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is on the record as opposing the VMT tax. The Association sent communication to California lawmakers conveying the concerns of professional truckers. OOIDA Director of State Legislative Affairs Mike Matousek told lawmakers the Association supports investments into transportation infrastructure. “However, if additional revenue is needed, increasing the fuel tax is the most equitable and efficient option, so long as the generated revenue is used for its intended purpose,” he said.