871 P.2d 261 (Ariz.Tax 1994), TX 93-00469, Maricopa County v. State

Docket Nº:TX 93-00469.
Citation:871 P.2d 261, 178 Ariz. 140
Party Name:MARICOPA COUNTY v. STATE of Arizona; Arizona Department of Revenue.
Case Date:March 14, 1994
Court:Tax Court of Arizona
 
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Page 261

871 P.2d 261 (Ariz.Tax 1994)

178 Ariz. 140

MARICOPA COUNTY

v.

STATE of Arizona; Arizona Department of Revenue.

No. TX 93-00469.

Tax Court of Arizona.

March 14, 1994

Page 262

[178 Ariz. 141] Helm & Kyle, P.L.C. by Ileen K. Keenan, John D. Helm, Tempe, for plaintiff.

Atty. Gen. by Michael F. Kempner, Phoenix, for defendant.

Beus, Gilbert & Morrill, P.L.L.C. by K. Layne Morrill, Phoenix, for intervenors.

OPINION

SCHAFER, Judge.

The issue in this case is whether Section 2 of House Bill 2007 is an unconstitutional gift of public money for private use. The bill permits property owners to file retroactive certifications of agricultural use and grants refunds of taxes assessed under non-agricultural use classifications.

Maricopa County (the County) brought this Motion for Summary Judgment seeking a declaration that Section 2 of House Bill 2007 (enacted as A.R.S. § 42-168) is an unconstitutional gift of public funds. 1

The Arizona Department of Revenue (the Department) and a group of interested property owners (Intervenors) argue that Section 2 of House Bill 2007 is not an unconstitutional gift of public monies. They take the position that the statute is merely a procedural enactment and is one done for the longstanding

Page 263

[178 Ariz. 142] public purpose of supporting agricultural use of property in Arizona. 2

On April 14, 1993, House Bill 2007 was signed by the Governor. Section 2 of the bill amends Title 42 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, specifically A.R.S. § 42-168, by granting certain property owners a retroactive avenue of relief for obtaining agricultural use classification of property which was originally denied such classification due to the owner's failure to comply with the requirements of A.R.S. § 42-167(D). 3

Section 2 provides that taxpayers who own property used for agricultural purposes which meets the criteria prescribed under A.R.S. § 42-167(A), but who failed to file the annual certification of eligibility for any year as required by A.R.S. § 42-167(D), may file the agricultural use certification form for that year with the county assessor on or before February 15, 1994. If the taxpayer submits the certification form, together with a sworn statement that the certification is true and correct, and the assessor is satisfied the property meets the requirements of A.R.S. § 42-167(A), then the property is to be reclassified, the value is to be redetermined, and a certificate of revaluation issued to the owner. The owner may then submit the certificate to the county treasurer for a refund. 4

The Court agrees with the County that Section 2 of House Bill 2007 is an unconstitutional gift of public monies.

ANALYSIS

This Court knows that legislative enactments are entitled to a presumption of constitutionality; however, this Court is also aware of its duty to uphold the Arizona Constitution. When the Court is determining the constitutionality of a legislative enactment, the Court is not concerned with the wisdom, necessity, propriety or expediency of the legislation in question; those are matters exclusively within the province of the legislature. Industrial Development Authority of

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[178 Ariz. 143] the City of Pinal v. Nelson, 109 Ariz. 368, 371, 509 P.2d 705, 708 (1973).

The County argues that Section 2 of House Bill 2007 operates as a gift of public funds without a public purpose. Article 9, section 7, of the Arizona Constitution provides, in pertinent part:

Neither the State, nor any county ... shall ever give or loan its credit in the aid of, or make any donation or grant, by subsidy or otherwise, to any individual, association, or corporation....

This prohibition prevents governmental bodies from depleting the public treasury by giving advantages to special interests or by engaging in non-public enterprises. Wistuber v. Paradise Valley Unified School, 141 Ariz. 346, 349, 687 P.2d 354, 709 (1984); State v. Northwestern Mutual Insurance Company, 86 Ariz. 50, 53...

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