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New York v. Vermeulen

Decided: May 17, 1965.

NEW YORK, SUSQUEHANNA AND WESTERN RAILROAD COMPANY, A NEW JERSEY CORPORATION, APPELLANT,
v.
ABRAM M. VERMEULEN, STATE COMPTROLLER, DIVISION OF BUDGET AND ACCOUNTING, DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY, STATE OF NEW JERSEY, RESPONDENT. STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT, V. NEW YORK, SUSQUEHANNA AND WESTERN RAILROAD COMPANY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



For affirmance -- Chief Justice Weintraub and Justices Jacobs, Francis, Proctor, Hall, Schettino and Haneman. For reversal -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Weintraub, C.J.

Weintraub

This case involves sundry attacks upon the constitutionality of the Railroad Tax Law of 1948, N.J.S.A. 54:29A-1 et seq.

Taxes for 1962 and 1963 levied against the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railroad Company (herein Susquehanna) being unpaid, the State Comptroller issued to the

Clerk of the Superior Court a certificate showing the amount thereof, and upon that certificate the Clerk of the Superior Court entered among docketed judgments the amount so certified against Susquehanna. Susquehanna appeals from the issuance of the certificate and the judgment entry so made. We certified the matters before the Appellate Division considered them.

Both officials acted under the authority of N.J.S.A. 54:29A-57 which reads:

"As an additional or alternative remedy, the State Comptroller may issue a certificate to the Clerk of the Superior Court that a taxpayer is indebted under this or any former act for the taxation of railroads in such an amount as shall be named in such certificate, and thereupon the clerk to whom such certificate shall have been issued shall immediately enter upon his record of docketed judgments the name of such taxpayer, and of the State, the amount of the debt so certified, a short name of the tax, and the date of making such entries. The making of the entries shall have the same force and effect as the entry of a docketed judgment in the office of such clerk, and the State Comptroller shall have all of the remedies and may take all of the proceedings for the collection thereof which may be had or taken upon the recovery of a judgment in a civil action, but without prejudice to the taxpayer's right of appeal."

At the time of the certificate and the judgment, administrative appeals were pending challenging assessments of Class II real property for the years in question. Following the judgment entry in question, Susquehanna, under protest, paid the full amount plus statutory interest of 1% per month.

I.

Susquehanna contends the statute by its treatment of Class II railroad property violates Art. VIII, § I, para. 1 of our State Constitution.

Class II property embraces all real property used for railroad purposes other than main stem. N.J.S.A. 54:29A-17. The railroad tax statute provides that all property used for railroad purposes shall be assessed by the State Tax Commissioner, N.J.S.A. 54:29A-7, and since each taxing district

receives so much of the tax as is derived from the assessment of Class II property situated within the taxing district, N.J.S.A. 54:29A-24(a), the tax upon that class of property is a tax allotted and paid to taxing districts within the meaning of Art. VIII, § I, para. 1(a) of the Constitution which reads:

"Property shall be assessed for taxation under general laws and by uniform rules. All real property assessed and taxed locally or by the State for allotment and payment to taxing districts shall be assessed according to the same standard of value; and such real property shall be taxed at the general tax rate of the taxing district in which the property is situated, for the use of such taxing district."

The railroad tax statute provides for the assessment of Class II property according to the same standard of value and at the general tax rate of the taxing district; hence the constitutional mandate is met in those regards. However, Susquehanna alleges the statute discriminates against Class II property in the following ways, thereby violating the requirement that property "be assessed under general laws and by uniform rules":

(1) Taxes levied locally on nonrailroad real property are imposed on each parcel of land and are not a personal obligation of the owner, Borough of Wrightstown v. Salvation Army, 97 N.J.L. 89 (Sup. Ct. 1922), whereas Class II railroad taxes are made a lien on "the revenues and all the real and personal property" of the railroad within the State, N.J.S.A. 54:29A-54, and a "debt" for which an action may be maintained, N.J.S.A. 54:29A-55.

(2) Taxes levied locally on nonrailroad real property are collectible only by sale of the specific parcel of real property, N.J.S.A. 54:5-19 et seq., whereas Class II railroad taxes may be collected by suit for the debt, as already mentioned in (1) above; by an action to enforce the lien against all property of the railroad, N.J.S.A. 54:29A-58; by appointment of a receiver to enforce ...


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