Matthews, Lora and Morgan.
This is an appeal from a judgment of the Law Division in a proceeding in lieu of prerogative writs which, among other things, found three line items in the General Appropriations Act passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor for the fiscal year 1974-1975 unconstitutional.
The facts are undisputed. The General Appropriations Act adopted by the Legislature and signed by the Governor for the fiscal year 1974-1975 contained the following appropriations:
To the capital district for municipal services and in lieu of taxes:
Ewing Township ($300,000)
The act also included an appropriation to Rutgers, The State University, of which $265,000 was to be allocated to the City of New Brunswick for municipal services. These appropriations were in fact paid to the three municipalities during the fiscal year in question.
The Borough of Glassboro instituted this action in lieu of prerogative writs, demanding that defendant Governor and the New Jersey Senate and General Assembly supplement the state budget for the fiscal year 1974-1975 by providing appropriations to it, and other similarly situated municipalities, payments in lieu of taxes for state-owned land and facilities in such municipalities -- the same as had allegedly
been provided in the state budget for defendants Trenton, Ewing and New Brunswick. In the alternative, the complaint demanded that the appropriations heretofore made to Trenton, Ewing and New Brunswick be declared unconstitutional and that the monies paid to these municipalities be returned to the State Treasury. The legal theory claimed to support the relief sought was that such appropriations to the three municipalities mentioned constituted "a private, special or local law relating to taxation or exemption therefrom," and is thereby in violation of N.J. Const. (1947), Art. IV, § 7, par. 9, subpar. 6. During the course of the proceedings several other municipalities were permitted to intervene, each claiming relief similar to that sought by Glassboro.
The trial judge, in an oral opinion, found the three line items in question to be unconstitutional in that they constituted private, local or special laws relating to taxation or the exemption therefrom. He refused to order the three municipalities to pay back the monies that they received, but he enjoined the Governor, the Senate and the General Assembly from enacting into law that portion of the new state budget which concerned appropriations to Trenton, Ewing and New Brunswick for municipal services and as payments in lieu of taxes. We disagree with his conclusions and reverse.
The trial judge seemingly recognized that municipalities cannot be the subject of discriminatory practice by the State. Clearly, equal protection considerations do not apply to municipal corporations which are the creatures of the State itself. His approach, rather, was that the three line items in question each constituted in itself a local, private or special law which was related to taxation. He found that since this was so our Constitution prohibited their enactment absent the special procedures established in the ...