October 14, 2002, Grain Valley, MO - The U.S. Supreme Court announced it has declined to review the Indiana Tax Court's decision over the constitutionality of the collection of fuel taxes on toll roads. In Anderson v. Indiana Department of State Revenue, OOIDA member Max Anderson of Muncie, with the assistance of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, challenged Indiana's imposition of its fuel tax on commercial motor vehicles while using the Indiana Toll Road.
OOIDA believes that since the Indiana Toll Road is completely paid for by tolls, the collection of another user fee like the fuel tax for the use of the same highway represents an undue burden on commerce. In other cases dealing with the Commerce Clause the Supreme Court has ruled such a tax is not reasonably related to services provided by the state and is unconstitutional.
The Indiana Tax Court, however, rejected OOIDA's argument by holding that the fuel tax is not a user fee even though it is only collected on commercial motor vehicles for the use of Indiana roads. OOIDA then sought a review by the Supreme Court, the second time it has done so on this issue.
In 1999, OOIDA initiated lawsuits against four states over the fuel tax/toll road challenge - New York, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. In January, 2002 the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a similar petition in the case against New York. In that case, OOIDA had appealed to other industry associations such as the American Trucking Association, the Truckload Carriers Association, the Motor Freight Carriers Association and Tank Truck Carriers Association to file supporting amicus briefs to the court. None of the other trade associations responded.
The Supreme Court's decision does not mean that OOIDA arguments on the issue are right or wrong, or that its claim was without merit. The Supreme Court receives over 7,000 petitions each year for consideration. Only 80-90 cases are eventually reviewed by the high court. The likelihood of the Court reviewing any one case is not great regardless of its merit.
OOIDA President Jim Johnston responded to the Supreme Court's announcement, saying, "This is a disappointing decision, particularly not being afforded the chance to even argue the merits of our case. We were confident the Supreme Court would have upheld our arguments. However, it is still important to oppose these types of unjustified taxes and fees wherever they exist. We will continue to be alert to any and all opportunities to challenge unfair taxation of commercial truckers and would hope that in future actions other industry representatives will see fit to join in support rather than sit idly by on the sidelines."
He added, "We believe the states' argument that a fuel tax is not a user tax is simply without justification, given the fact they all support fuel taxes as the most accurate method available of determining actual road use. Furthermore, payment of their fuel taxes is based on miles driven, regardless of whether or not fuel was purchased in that state. Needless to say, a great deal of money is involved and the states have fashioned arguments to protect their treasuries."