This is an action for a declaratory judgment brought by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and naming the Attorney General of the State of New Jersey and the State Highway Commissioner as defendants.
The question presented is whether the New Jersey Turnpike Authority Act of 1948 which provides for the creation of said Authority and enumerates therein, its functions, powers and limitations, is constitutional, and seeks further a declaration as to rights and status of the parties thereunder.
The relief demanded in the complaint is as follows:
"1. That the said New Jersey Turnpike Authority Act of 1948, approved October 27, 1948, is constitutionally enacted and valid and effectual in accordance with its terms and now in full force and effect;
"2. That neither by enactment of the said New Jersey Turnpike Authority Act of 1948 did the Legislature of the State of New Jersey, nor by the issuance of its bonds in any amount whatsoever pursuant to and in accordance with the said Act will the plaintiff create a debt or debts, liability or
liabilities of the State in contravention of the provisions of paragraph 3 of Section II of Article VIII of the New Jersey Constitution or any other provision thereof;
"3. That the plaintiff acting independently and without reference to any other state agency or officer, has good right, proper status and lawful authority to fix, revise, charge and collect, disburse, pledge, and apply or otherwise dispose of, tolls for the use of or transit over the Turnpike Project and the right-of-way thereof; and also to make and perform contracts with the holders of its bonds legally binding on it as to the rates of such tolls and the amount of revenues and income to be derived therefrom; and
"4. That the plaintiff, acting independently and without reference to any other state agency or officer, has good right, proper status and lawful authority to authorize and issue its bonds for any of its corporate purposes including the refunding of its bonds, and make covenants and other provisions for their security, in accordance with the terms and provisions of the said New Jersey Turnpike Authority Act of 1948, and all bonds of the Authority so authorized and issued in accordance with such terms and provisions will be the valid obligations of the plaintiff, legally binding upon it and enforceable in accordance with their terms and the terms and provisions of said Act."
The answer filed by the Attorney General admits the factual allegations of the complaint and the legal conclusions drawn therefrom.
The answer of the defendant, State Highway Commissioner, while admitting all of the factual allegations of the complaint, sharply disputes the legal conclusions advanced and maintains that the Turnpike Authority so constituted is merely a successor to the former State Highway Commission and an alter ego of the State itself. It is further maintained that the State is attempting to extend the debt limit by indirection in particular violation of the provisions of Article VIII, section II, paragraph 3 of the Constitution of 1947.
Perhaps it is more accurate to say that the defendant, State Highway Commissioner, does not admit paragraphs 11 and
12 of the complaint but does not deny the allegation of the facts therein. Thereafter the matter was listed on motion for a judgment upon the pleadings "for the relief demanded in the complaint."
The question to be determined subdivides itself as follows:
1. Is the question of the constitutionality of Chapter 454 of the Laws of 1948 properly raised in this action?
2. Does the statute violate our constitution of 1947?
It would seem after the oral argument that there is no serious opposite to the question of the constitutionality of this Act being properly raised in this action.
It may be said that all parties seek to obtain a speedy determination of this question that is of vital importance and desire to set in motion, action through this court, that in turn will bring about a final determination by the Supreme Court of this State.
It is sufficient to say that the applicable statutes and rules require, in this instant, that this court determine the constitutionality of the Act and the rights of the parties thereunder, with dispatch.
Particularly is it sought to be determined whether the power granted to the Turnpike Authority to provide for the issuance of bonds in order to finance the cost of construction of the contemplated Turnpike contravenes Article VIII, ...