Briggs v. Greenville County, (No. 12083.)

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtCOTHRAN
Citation135 S.E. 153
Decision Date18 October 1926
Docket Number(No. 12083.)
PartiesBRIGGS v. GREENVILLE COUNTY et al.

135 S.E. 153

BRIGGS
v.
GREENVILLE COUNTY et al.

(No. 12083.)

Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Oct. 18, 1926.


[135 S.E. 154]

Original application by Henry Briggs to restrain Greenville County and others from entering into so-called reimbursement agreements with the state highway commission, and from issuing bonds. Petition dismissed.

Wm. H. Hoyt, of New York City, and C. F. Haynsworth, of Greenville, for petitioner.

Oscar K. Mauldin, J. L. Love and J. M. Richardson, all of Greenville, for respondents.

COTHRAN, J. This is an application by a taxpayer of Greenville county to the Supreme Court in its original jurisdiction to restrain the respondents from entering into so-called reimbursement agreements with the state highway commission of South Carolina, and from issuing bonds of Greenville county or of the road district of Greenville county, and to have the statutes authorizing these agreements and bond issues declared unconstitutional.

The respondents are Greenville county, the road district of Greenville county, and the supervisor of Greenville county. The road district of Greenville county is coterminous with the county, and was created by the fifth section of an act approved April 2, 1926, referred to in the Petition as the "General Bond Act" (34 Stat, at Large p. 1001).

Upon the taxpayer's petition the writer issued a rule to show cause why the prayer of the petition should not be granted. The respondents have made a written return in which they admit the allegations of fact

contained in the petition and deny certain conclusions of law set forth therein.

The respondents are about to enter into the so-called reimbursement agreements either in the name and behalf of said county, or in the name and behalf of said road district. By the agreements, the county or district, as the case may be, will agree to advance to the state highway commission the moneys necessary for the construction of certain portions of the state highway system in Greenville county, and the state highway commission will agree to construct the highways and reimburse the county or district, as the case may be, for all moneys so advanced, such reimbursement to be made out of the funds set apart and authorized to be used for the construction of a state highway system by the Act approved March 21, 1924, as amended, referred to in the petition as the "Pay-As-You-Go Act" (33 Stat, at Large, p. 1393); said funds being the automobile license tax, federal aid moneys, and three-fifths of the gasoline tax. The agreements will be made under the authority of the Pay-As-You-Go Act, as modified or amended, by implication, by the General Bond Act of April 2, 1926, and by an Act of March 23, 1926, referred to in the petition as the Greenville Bond Act.

By the terms of one or more of these proposed reimbursement agreements, the reimbursements to be made thereunder will be made within a period of ten years. The state highway commission has estimated and determined that all of the highways embraced in the state highway system and described in section 1 of the Pay-As-You-Go Act can and will be constructed within 18 years from and after the year 1924 by means of the funds provided by said act for said purpose. If all of the reimbursement agreements in question are made at the same time, they will provide for the construction of two or more hard-surfaced cross-county roads in Greenville county before every other county in the state has one such road.

For the purpose of raising the moneys required by these reimbursement agreements to be advanced to the state highway commission, the respondent supervisor proposes to issue bonds of the county or of the road district in an aggregate principal amount equal to the amount to be advanced to the state highway commission as aforesaid, which amount will be more than $1,500, 000. These bonds will be issued either in pursuance of the Greenville Bond Act or in pursuance of the General Bond Act,

The question whether the state highway commission shall enter into these reimbursement agreements has not been submitted to the electors of the state of South Carolina at a general election, nor has any proposi-

[135 S.E. 155]

tion to increase the debt of the state been approved by two-thirds of the qualified electors of the state voting on such question, as provided in section 11 of article 10 of the state Constitution.

The assessed value of taxable property in Greenville county is $20,530, 130. The existing bonded debt of the county, subject to the limitations prescribed by section 5 of article 10 of the state Constitution, is 6.04 per cent, of such assessed value. If the sinking funds held for the payment of this debt are deducted, the net amount of the existing bonded debt will be 6.12 per cent, of such assessed valuation. The sinking funds consist of cash deposited in banks and evidenced by certificates of deposit. If the $1,500, 000 of bonds in question be issued in the name of Greenville county, and be treated as a part of its bonded debt within the meaning of section 5 of article 10 of the Constitution, the total amount of the county's bonded debt, less the amount of its sinking funds, will, after these bonds are issued, amount to 11.20 per cent, of the assessed valuation of taxable property of the county. If the bonds are issued as obligations of the road district of Greenville county, and are to be treated as bonded debt of the road district within the meaning of the constitutional limitations, the bonded debt of the road district will amount to 5.07 per cent, of the assessed valuation of taxable property in the road district. The assessed value of taxable property in Greenville city school district No. 17, in Greenville county, is $9,593, 620, and its bonded debt, less its sinking funds, amounts to 8.27 per cent, of the assessed value of its taxable property.

The petitioner raises a number of questions which will be considered. The very clear argument of counsel for the respondents has practically been adopted as the opinion of the court.

Are the provisions of the Pay-As-You-Go Act (33 Stat, at Large, p. 1193), as amended, relating to the making of so-called reimbursement agreements, or the provisions of said act relating to the making of reimbursements pursuant to said agreements, void for uncertainty?

In the petitioner's brief it is argued that the last proviso of section 3 of the Pay-As-You-Go Act is meaningless. It is also argued that it cannot be determined from the provisions of this section whether or not counties only, or both counties and townships, are to be reimbursed for hard-surfaced roads constructed before the passage of the Pay-As-You-Go Act.

"A statute cannot be held void for uncertainty if any reasonable and practical construction can be given to its language. Mere difficulty in ascertaining its meaning or the fact that it is susceptible of different interpretations will not render it nugatory. Doubts as to its proper construction will not justify us in disregard ing it." Lew's' Sutherland on Statutory Construction (2d Ed.) | 86.

Section 3 of the Pay-As-You-Go Act relates exclusively to reimbursements to be made on account, of hard-surfaced roads constructed prior to the passage of the act. This section concludes with the following words:

"The state highway commission shall determine as nearly as possible how many years will be required to construct the above roads, and the said county or counties shall be reimbursed in equal annual installments during said estimated period of construction."

The petitioner questions the meaning of the words "the above roads" in this sentence. They mean the roads specifically described in the first section of the Pay-As-You-Go Act, just as do the words "the roads above described, " which appear in the beginning of section 2. This is a sensible meaning and the only sensible meaning that can be given to the words "the above roads" in the last sentence of section 3. The sentence simply means that it shall be the duty of the state highway commission to determine as nearly as possible how many years will be required to construct the state highway system specifically described in the first section of the act, by means of the funds placed by the act at the disposal of the highway commission, and that the counties which constructed hard-surfaced roads before the passage of the act shall be reimbursed in equal annual installments extending over the number of years estimated to be required for the construction of the entire system. For example, if the highway commission shall have estimated that 18 years will be required to construct the entire system, each county will be reimbursed in 18 equal annual installments for the roads constructed before the passage of the act.

The petitioner also maintains that the following words in section 3 are meaningless:

"Provided, further, that no agreement for the reimbursement shall be made which shall necessitate the payment to said county or counties of a sum annually greater than said county or counties would receive if said hard-surfaced roads had not been constructed."

The petitioner argues that the counties would receive nothing "if said hard-surfaced roads had not been constructed." There are two sensible constructions which can be given to this proviso, vis.: First, the proviso was intended to emphasize the fact that counties which constructed hard-surfaced roads before the passage of the act are not to be reimbursed any sooner than they would be reimbursed if the roads were constructeded under reimbursement agreements made after the passage of the act. Second, the proviso contemplates that the state highway commission shall apportion or allot the state

[135 S.E. 156]

highway fund to each county in such equal annual installments as would build the roads within that county by the end of the estimated period for the completion of the entire system, and also contemplates that the amount of the reimbursements to be made to the county in any...

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64 practice notes
  • New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority v. McCrane
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • May 12, 1972
    ...Capitol Page 49 Addition Building Comm. v. Connelly, 39 N.M. 312, 46 P.2d 1097 (Sup.Ct.1935); Briggs v. Greenville County, 137 S.C. 288, 135 S.E. 153 (1926). [292 A.2d 570] The line thus drawn between a property tax and an excise tax is odd in the light of fiscal realities since the excise ......
  • Clarke v. South Carolina Pub. Serv. Auth., No. 14137.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • September 10, 1935
    ...'It is not necessary that the title should be an index of the contents of the statute.' Briggs v. Greenville County, 137 S. C. 288, 135 S. E. 153, 163. See, also, Means v. Highway Department, 146 S. C. 19, 143 S. E. 360; McKiever v. City of Sumter, 137 S. C. 266, 135 S. E. 60." This ob......
  • State Ex Rel. Richards v. Moorer, (No. 12746.)
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • October 12, 1929
    ...is not necessary that the title should be an index of the contents of the statute." Briggs v. Greenville County, 137 S. C. 288, 135 S. E. 153, 163. See, also, Means v. Highway Department, 146 S. C. 19, 143 S. E. 360; McKiever v. City of Sumter, 137 S. C. 266, 135 S. E. 60. Counsel for ......
  • State ex rel. Roddey v. Byrnes, No. 16521
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • July 9, 1951
    ...of it is firmly established in the law of this State, as said. It was clearly defined in Briggs v. Greenville County, 137 S.C. 288, 135 S.E. 153, 158, opinion by Mr. Justice Cothran, as follows: 'This court has held a number of times that obligations * * * secured by the pledge of a fund wh......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
64 cases
  • New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority v. McCrane
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • May 12, 1972
    ...Capitol Page 49 Addition Building Comm. v. Connelly, 39 N.M. 312, 46 P.2d 1097 (Sup.Ct.1935); Briggs v. Greenville County, 137 S.C. 288, 135 S.E. 153 (1926). [292 A.2d 570] The line thus drawn between a property tax and an excise tax is odd in the light of fiscal realities since the excise ......
  • Clarke v. South Carolina Pub. Serv. Auth., No. 14137.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • September 10, 1935
    ...'It is not necessary that the title should be an index of the contents of the statute.' Briggs v. Greenville County, 137 S. C. 288, 135 S. E. 153, 163. See, also, Means v. Highway Department, 146 S. C. 19, 143 S. E. 360; McKiever v. City of Sumter, 137 S. C. 266, 135 S. E. 60." This ob......
  • State Ex Rel. Richards v. Moorer, (No. 12746.)
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • October 12, 1929
    ...is not necessary that the title should be an index of the contents of the statute." Briggs v. Greenville County, 137 S. C. 288, 135 S. E. 153, 163. See, also, Means v. Highway Department, 146 S. C. 19, 143 S. E. 360; McKiever v. City of Sumter, 137 S. C. 266, 135 S. E. 60. Counsel for ......
  • State ex rel. Roddey v. Byrnes, No. 16521
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • July 9, 1951
    ...of it is firmly established in the law of this State, as said. It was clearly defined in Briggs v. Greenville County, 137 S.C. 288, 135 S.E. 153, 158, opinion by Mr. Justice Cothran, as follows: 'This court has held a number of times that obligations * * * secured by the pledge of a fund wh......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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