Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sidewalk Tax To Be Struck Down On Constitutional Grounds

I heard a comment from someone in the VIP crowd Monday night that the Attorney General was reviewing the sidewalk tax on constitutional grounds. I wasn't going to post about it, but then one of the Aldermen said something out loud about it, which makes it public record, and here we are.

So, Alderman Israel has been in contact with some of his old mates over at the AG's office, and the word is that the infamous sidewalk tax doesn't pass Constitutional muster. I will tag this as a rumor alert, but the word is that the tax has already been struck down.

The constitutional issue in question is the authority of municipal corporations (such as the city of Annapolis) to levy taxes. The charter of the city of Annapolis deals specifically with the taxation of real property. This is for a reason--the Maryland Constitution expressly grants that authority. Section XI-E deals with the taxation powers of municipalities:

No such municipal corporation shall levy any type of tax, license fee, franchise
tax or fee which was not in effect in such municipal corporation on January 1,
1954, unless it shall receive the express authorization of the General Assembly
for such purpose, by a general law which in its terms and its effect applies
alike to all municipal corporations in one or more of the classes provided for
in Section 2 of this Article.

Not only has the general assembly not approved the sidewalk tax, but reportedly they have considered such a matter in the past and have voted it down. Translation: don't pay your sidewalk bill because it's not going to stick.

What's more, is that the city failed to learn from its past. Mayor Hopkins, back in 1995, created a Revenue Authority for the city and asked for an opinion from the Attorney General. In his opinion, the AG addressed the tax/fees issue:

Of course, the revenue authority must operate with Article XI-E and with public
general law. To take but one example, a municipality may not levy any tax
or fee without authorization by the General Assembly in a generally applicable
law. Thus, for example, Attorney General Sachs advised that a municipality
could not create a special taxing district without legislative authorization,
because "a municipality has the power to levy a tax only to the extent granted
by the state."

So whatever they say about the best laid plans of mice and men, add this to the list.

1 comment:

ellis said...

Good work, my man. Glad to hear there's movement on the issue. I don't want to pay $50 for the 10 feet of sidewalk in front of my townhouse that I never use but have to maintain.

Is it true that the city is still holding checks that have been sent in? As in, not cashing them?