Arkansas wants trucking suit dismissed

| Tuesday, July 01, 2003

The state of Arkansas has filed a motion to dismiss a suit against it by the Arkansas Trucking Association.

In the motion, the state claims that the court where the suit was filed has no jurisdiction in the case.

According to John Tice of the Department of Finance and Administration, the suit was filed under Article 16, Section 13 of the Arkansas State Constitution, which allows citizens to challenge the constitutionality of a tax or whether a particular expenditure was appropriate.

Since the association and the other plaintiff in the case, Wayne Smith Trucking, were not challenging the constitutionality of the sales tax, Tice said, the state is asking the court to end the suit.

According to Lane Kidd, president of the Arkansas Trucking Association, the state also contends the plaintiffs should have first requested a refund and been denied that refund before filing suit. In addition, he said, the state maintains the suit should be limited to the named plaintiffs and should not be expanded to a class action.

Kidd said the state’s response was what his group expected.

“Our legal counsel advised they didn’t see anything in the response that was unexpected,” he said. “So we’re hopeful that the judge will refuse to grant their motion and this case can go to trial.”

The Arkansas Trucking Association and Wayne Smith Trucking sued the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration May 23 over the agency’s attempt to collect back sales tax from truckers.

Kidd said the plaintiffs want the state to return the back sales tax it has already collected.

The controversy erupted earlier this year when the International Registration Plan, an interstate compact regulating trucking fees, ruled that truckers who did not live in Oklahoma could no longer base plate there. That forced hundreds, perhaps thousands of truckers to move their plates to their home states.

Officials at the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration contended the truckers would owe back taxes when the companies or individuals moved their truck registrations back to Arkansas. The department contended that those truckers who had base plated outside of Arkansas did so illegally.

The state sales tax could run as high as $6,000 on a new rig.

Judge Ellen Brantley will hear the case, which was filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court. The department’s response, filed June 17, was not due until June 24.

--by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor

Mark Reddig can be reached at mreddig@landlinemag.com.

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