Sidebilder
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

state consumption. But on the fourth route the taxed reserve on busses moving in one direction is more than four times that consumed within the state. In the other it is approximately the same. With the three scheduled trips daily each way on the Memphis-St. Louis route, the excess of the gasoline taxed over that consumed in the state is more than 150 gallons per day. In no case does it appear that the amount of taxed gasoline has any relation to the size or weight of vehicles.

It cannot be said that such a tax whose equivalence to a fair charge for the use of the highways, when not fortuitous, is attained only by appellee's abandonment of some of the commerce which is taxed, has any such fair relationship to the use of the highways by appellee as would serve to relieve the state from the constitutional prohibition against the taxation of property moving in interstate commerce. A tax so variable in its revenue production when compared with the taxpayer's intrastate movement cannot be thought to be “levied only as compensation for the use of the highways.” Interstate Transit, Inc. v. Lindsey, supra, 186. Justification of the tax, as a compensation measure, by treating it as the equivalent of one which could be laid on gasoline consumed within the state must fail because the statute on its face and in its application discriminates against the commerce by measuring the tax by the consumption of gasoline moving and used in interstate commerce which occurs outside the state. See Fargo v. Michigan, 121 U.S. 230, 241; Gwin, White & Prince v. Henneford, 305 U. S. 434, 438.

It is no answer to the challenge to the levy to say that by altering the amount of the gasoline brought into the state for extrastate consumption appellee could so moderate the tax that it would bear a fair relation to the use of the highways within the state. In the circumstances of this case the state is without power to regulate the amount

[blocks in formation]

of gasoline carried interstate in appellee's tanks. It cannot be said, if that were material, that the amount carried is not appropriate for the interstate commerce in which appellee is engaged and it can hardly be supposed that the state could compel appellee to purchase there all the gasoline which it uses intrastate upon an interstate journey, because that would be a convenient means of laying and collecting a tax for the use of the highways. There are ways enough in which the state can take its lawful toll without any suppression of the commerce which it taxes. In laying an exaction as a means of collecting compensation for the use of its highways the state must tax the commerce as it is done, and not as it might be done if the state could control it. Appellant cannot justify an unlawful exaction by insisting that it would be lawful if the taxpayer were to relinquish some of the commerce which the Constitution protects from state interference.

MR. JUSTICE BLACK, MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER, and MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, dissenting:

We take a different view. Measured by the oftrepeated judicial rule that every enactment of a legislature carries a presumption of constitutional validity, the Arkansas tax has not, in our opinion, been shown to be beyond all reasonable doubt in violation of the constitutional provision that “Congress shall have power to ... regulate commerce . among the States.” “In case of real doubt, a law must be sustained.” Mr. Justice Holmes in Interstate Consolidated Ry. Co. v. Massachusetts, 207 U. S. 79, 88. Congress, sole constitutional legislative repository of power over that commerce, has

*Cf. Ogden v. Saunders, 12 Wheat. 213, 270; Butler v. Pennsylvania, 10 How. 402; Booth v. Illinois, 184 U. S. 425; Henderson Bridge Co. v. Henderson City, 173 U. S. 592, 606, 615; South Carolina Highway Dept. v. Barnwell Bros., 303 U. S. 177, 195.

[blocks in formation]

enacted no regulation prohibiting Arkansas from levying a tax-on gasoline in excess of twenty gallons brought into the State—in return for the use of its highways. Gasoline taxes are widely utilized for building and maintaining public roads, and the proceeds of this Arkansas tax are pledged to that end. Arkansas can levy a gallonage tax on any gasoline withdrawn from storage within the State and placed in the tanks of this carrier's vehicles "notwithstanding that its ultimate function is to generate motive power for carrying on interstate commerce.” Edelman v. Boeing Air Transport, 289 U. S. 249, 252. The present tax aims at carriers who would escape such taxation, unless we are to require Arkansas to shape its taxes to the circumstances of each carrier.

The cost entailed by the construction and maintenance of modern highways creates for the forty-eight States one of their largest financial problems. A major phase of this problem is the proper apportionment of the financial burden between those who use a State's highways for transportation within its borders and those who do so in the course of interstate transportation. Striking a fair balance involves incalculable variants and therefore is beset with perplexities. The making of these exacting adjustments is the business of legislation—that of state legislatures and of Congress. This Court has but a limited responsibility in that state legislation may here be challenged if it discriminates against interstate commerce or is hostile to the congressional grant of authority. McGoldrick v. Berwind-White Coal Mining Co., ante,

p. 33.

Arkansas' tax hits the big, heavy busses and trucks which, it is well established, entail most serious wear and tear upon roads. Had Arkansas expressly declared the challenged statute to be a means of working out a fair charge upon these heavy vehicles for cost and maintenance of the roads they travel in the State, the relation

[blocks in formation]

ship between the means employed and these allowable ends—however crude and awkward-would have been rendered more explicit, but not made more evidently a matter of policy and administration, and therefore not for judicial determination. Certainly, the State had power to impose flat fees or taxes graduated according to gasoline used, horsepower, weight and capacity or mileage, and yet those taxes would not measure with exact precision the taxpayers' use of Arkansas highways. It is not for us to measure the refinements of fiscal duties which a State may exact from these heavy motor vehicles. 3

This case again illustrates the wisdom of the Founders in placing interstate commerce under the protection of Congress. The present problem is not limited to Arkansas, but is of national moment. Maintenance of open channels of trade between the States was not only of paramount importance when our Constitution was framed; it remains today a complex problem calling for national vigilance and regulation.

Our disagreement with the opinions just announced does not arise from a belief that federal action is unnecessary to bring about appropriate uniformity in regulations of interstate commerce. Indeed, state legislation recently before this Court indicates quite the contrary. For instance, we sustained the right of South Carolina

2

* Interstate Busses Corp. v. Blodgett, 276 U. S. 245; Carley & Hamilton v. Snook, 281 U.S. 66; Continental Baking Co. v. Woodring, 286 U. S. 352; Hicklin v. Coney, 290 U. S. 169; Aero Transit Co. v. Georgia Comm'n, 295 U. S. 285; Morf v. Bingaman, 298 U. S. 407.

'If the State had the power to levy the tax, absent congressional proscription, it likewise had the power to extend the grace of exemption to users of its highways of less tank capacity or gasoline load than appellee. Cf. Continental Baking Co. v. Woodring, supra, 370-3; Sproles v. Binford, 286 U. S. 374, 396; Aero Transit Co. v. Georgia Comm'n, supra, 289, 292–3.

[blocks in formation]

in the absence of congressional prohibition—to regulate the width and weight of interstate trucks using her highways, even though the unassailed findings showed that a substantial amount of interstate commerce would thereby be barred from the State. South Carolina Highway Dept. v. Barnwell Bros.“ We did not thereby approve the desirability of such state regulations. It is not for us to approve or disapprove. We did decide that "courts do not sit as legislatures, either state or national. They cannot act as Congress does when, after weighing all the conflicting interests, state and national, it determines when and how much the state regulatory power shall yield to the larger interests of national commerce.” As both the Union and the States are more and more dependent upon the exercise of their taxing powers for carrying on government, it becomes more and more important that potential conflicts between state and national powers should not be found where Congress has not found them, unless conflict is established by demonstrable concreteness. See Hammond v. Schappi Bus Line, 275 U. S. 164.

Even under the principle enunciated by the majority, that Arkansas may not measure her tax by gasoline carried in appellee's tanks for use in other States the challenged judgment should not stand.

Arkansas admittedly has power to tax appellee upon gasoline used within her borders, and need not, of course, extend to appellee any exemption for a reserve. The record discloses that appellee's busses travel 1188.8 miles each day over Arkansas highways. The trial judge found, and there is evidence to support the finding, that these busses use about one gallon of gasoline for every five miles traveled. Thus, appellee uses about 237.76 gallons

[ocr errors][merged small]
« ForrigeFortsett »