V-1 Oil Co. v. State, V-1

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
Writing for the CourtBefore TAYLOR; GOLDEN
Citation934 P.2d 740
Decision Date14 March 1997
Docket NumberNo. 96-127,V-1
PartiesOIL COMPANY, an Idaho corporation, Appellant (Plaintiff), v. The STATE of Wyoming, Appellee (Defendant).

Page 740

934 P.2d 740
V-1 OIL COMPANY, an Idaho corporation, Appellant (Plaintiff),
v.
The STATE of Wyoming, Appellee (Defendant).
No. 96-127.
Supreme Court of Wyoming.
March 14, 1997.

Page 741

Robert O. Anderson, Riverton, for appellant.

William U. Hill, Attorney General; Thomas J. Davidson, Deputy Attorney General; Mike Barrash, Sr. Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

Before TAYLOR, C.J., and THOMAS, MACY, GOLDEN and LEHMAN, JJ.

GOLDEN, Justice.

Appellant V-1 Oil Company (V-1), an Idaho corporation, appeals from dismissal of its complaint challenging the constitutionality of legislation distributing funding to the Underground Storage Tank Act.

We affirm.

ISSUES

V-1 presents the following issues:

1. Is Wyoming Statute § 39-6-302(g) unconstitutional due to there being no object clause within it?

2. Is the application of proceeds spent by § 39-6-305(k)(vi) unconstitutional as applied?

3. Is the collection of and application of the proceeds generated by Wyoming Statutes § 39-6-215 and § 39-6-914 unconstitutional?

Appellee State of Wyoming frames the issues as:

1. Does the mineral severance tax under W.S. 39-6-302(g) violate Article 15, Section 13 of the Wyoming Constitution, which requires that every "law" imposing a tax shall have an "object" or "use of proceeds" clause directing how the revenue from such tax is to be distributed?

2. Does W.S. 39-6-305(k)(vi) provide for "ongoing" or only "one-time" distributions?

3. Are proceeds from the one cent per gallon fuel taxes under W.S. 39-6-215 and 39-6-914 somehow being "fraud[ulently]" misused for purposes of the leaking storage tank accounts (W.S. 35-11-1424 and 1427), contrary to Article 15, Section 16 of the Wyoming Constitution, which requires that all fuel taxes go only to the state highway fund?

4. Did the District Court's March 28, 1996 Order (which V-1 now asks this Court to "reverse,") properly deny V-1's request for class action status and for designation as representative for the class under Rule 23(a)(4) of the Wyoming Rules of Civil Procedure?

FACTS

The State of Wyoming collects fuel taxes which are required by Art. 15, § 16 of the Wyoming Constitution to be distributed solely for highway funding. The State of Wyoming also collects mineral severance taxes but their distribution is not limited by the state constitution. Before 1989, a portion of these mineral severance taxes was distributed to highway funding. 1989 Wyo.Sess.Laws Ch. 270. In 1989, the Wyoming legislature enacted a statutory scheme called the Underground Storage Tank Act designed to abate contamination from leaking underground storage tanks and provide financial assistance to affected businesses. Id. The legislature funded this act with mineral severance tax revenues previously distributed to the state highway fund. WYO.STAT. § 39-6-305(k)(vi) (1989); 1989 Wyo.Sess.Laws Ch. 270; WYO.STAT. § 39-6-302(g) (1989). To offset the consequent revenue loss to the highway fund, the legislature levied a penny per gallon fuel tax which is directly distributed to the state highway fund. WYO.STAT. § 39-6-215(b) and 914(b) (1989).

Page 742

V-l filed a class action suit which requested that the district court find V-1 to be a proper party to represent the class, and sought a declaratory judgment and injunction establishing that the offsetting scheme was unconstitutional under Wyoming's state constitution. The district court denied the class action request for failure to satisfy the requirements of WYO.R.CIV.P. 23(a)(4) and dismissed the claims under WYO.R.CIV.P. 12 (b)(6) for failure to state claims on which relief can be granted. This timely appeal followed.

DISCUSSION

Standard of Review

Although V-1 questions the legislature's wisdom of the underground storage tank program and the legislature's intent in enacting the funding scheme, the State appropriately moved that V-1's complaint be dismissed under WYO.R.CIV.P. 12(b)(6). While that motion admitted the factual allegations of the complaint, it does not admit the legal conclusion that the State acted unlawfully. Sump v. City of Sheridan, 358 P.2d 637, 639 (Wyo.1961). V-1's attack on the funding of the underground storage tank program is based upon two constitutional grounds: whether the funding scheme involves a fuel tax in violation of Art. 15, § 16 of the Wyoming Constitution and whether the mineral severance tax levied for the purpose of funding the tank program states that purpose in a manner which satisfies Art. 15, § 13 of the Wyoming Constitution.

Issues of constitutionality present questions of law. We review questions of law under a de novo standard of review and afford no deference to the district court's determinations on the issues. Anderson v. Bommer, 926 P.2d 959, 961 (Wyo.1996). In reviewing a constitutionally based challenge to a statute, we presume the statute to be constitutional and any doubt in the matter must be resolved in favor of the statute's constitutionality. Thomson v. Wyoming In-Stream Flow Committee, 651 P.2d 778, 789-90 (Wyo.1982). V-1 bears the burden of proving the statute is unconstitutional. Pfeil v. Amax Coal West, Inc., 908 P.2d 956, 961 (Wyo.1995).

Constitutionality of Funding Scheme

Article 15, § 16 of the Wyoming Constitution provides as follows:

§ 16. Disposition of fees, excises and license taxes on vehicles and gasoline.

No moneys derived from fees, excises, or license taxes levied by the state and exclusive of registration fees and licenses or excise taxes imposed by a county or municipality, relating to registration, operation or use of vehicles on public highways, streets or alleys, or to fuels used for propelling such vehicles, shall be expended for other than cost of administering such laws, statutory refunds and adjustments allowed therein, payment of highway obligations, costs for construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of public highways, county roads, bridges and streets, alleys and bridges in cities and towns, and expense of enforcing state traffic laws.

This provision expressly requires that the proceeds of all state-levied vehicle and gasoline taxes must be distributed exclusively to public highway expenses. Appellants claim that revenue collected from mineral severance taxes and a one-cent fuel tax is being transferred "fraudulently" for the purpose of funding the underground storage tank program in violation of this constitutional provision. Appellants' proof of fraud is a bare allegation that the transfers were designed by the legislature with an intent to circumvent the constitution. Such proof is insufficient to state a claim for fraud which must be established by clear, unequivocal and convincing evidence, and will never be presumed....

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16 practice notes
  • Fraternal Order of Eagles Sheridan v. State, No. 05-57.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • January 10, 2006
    ...West, Inc., 908 P.2d 956, 961 (Wyo.1995)." Reiter v. State, 2001 WY 116, ¶ 7, 36 P.3d 586, 589 (Wyo.2001) (quoting V-1 Oil Co. v. State, 934 P.2d 740, 742 (Wyo.1997)). See also Browning, 2001 WY 93, ¶ 12, 32 P.3d at 1066; Saiz, 2001 WY 76, ¶ 10, 30 P.3d at 24; and Campbell, 999 P.2d at 657.......
  • Cloud v. State, No. S–11–0102.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • February 9, 2012
    ...880 P.2d 594, 597 (Wyo.1994) ).[275 P.3d 396 Reiter v. State, 2001 WY 116, ¶ 7, 36 P.3d 586, 589 (Wyo.2001) (quoting V–1 Oil Co. v. State, 934 P.2d 740, 742 (Wyo.1997) ).B. Wyoming Constitutional Analysis¶ 47] Because Bear Cloud argues that, even if this Court concludes that his life senten......
  • Director, Office of State Lands v. Merbanco, No. 01-261
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • June 6, 2003
    ...of proving such beyond any reasonable doubt. Board of County Commissioners v. Geringer, 941 P.2d 742 (Wyo.1997); V-1 Oil Company v. State, 934 P.2d 740 (Wyo.1997); NJC v. State, 913 P.2d 435 (Wyo.1996). In fact, we are duty bound to uphold statutes where possible and resolve all doubts in f......
  • Powers v. State, No. S-13-0052
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • January 3, 2014
    ...Merbanco, ¶ 32, 70 P.3d at 252, citing Board of County Comm'rs v. Geringer, 941 P.2d 742 (Wyo. 1997); V-1 Oil Co. v. State, 934 P.2d 740 (Wyo. 1997); NJC v. State, 913 P.2d 435 (Wyo. 1996); Campbell v. State, 999 P.2d 649 (Wyo. 2000); Frantz v. Campbell County Memorial Hospital, 932 P.2d 75......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
16 cases
  • Fraternal Order of Eagles Sheridan v. State, No. 05-57.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • January 10, 2006
    ...West, Inc., 908 P.2d 956, 961 (Wyo.1995)." Reiter v. State, 2001 WY 116, ¶ 7, 36 P.3d 586, 589 (Wyo.2001) (quoting V-1 Oil Co. v. State, 934 P.2d 740, 742 (Wyo.1997)). See also Browning, 2001 WY 93, ¶ 12, 32 P.3d at 1066; Saiz, 2001 WY 76, ¶ 10, 30 P.3d at 24; and Campbell, 999 P.2d at 657.......
  • Cloud v. State, No. S–11–0102.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • February 9, 2012
    ...880 P.2d 594, 597 (Wyo.1994) ).[275 P.3d 396 Reiter v. State, 2001 WY 116, ¶ 7, 36 P.3d 586, 589 (Wyo.2001) (quoting V–1 Oil Co. v. State, 934 P.2d 740, 742 (Wyo.1997) ).B. Wyoming Constitutional Analysis¶ 47] Because Bear Cloud argues that, even if this Court concludes that his life senten......
  • Director, Office of State Lands v. Merbanco, No. 01-261
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • June 6, 2003
    ...of proving such beyond any reasonable doubt. Board of County Commissioners v. Geringer, 941 P.2d 742 (Wyo.1997); V-1 Oil Company v. State, 934 P.2d 740 (Wyo.1997); NJC v. State, 913 P.2d 435 (Wyo.1996). In fact, we are duty bound to uphold statutes where possible and resolve all doubts in f......
  • Powers v. State, No. S-13-0052
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • January 3, 2014
    ...Merbanco, ¶ 32, 70 P.3d at 252, citing Board of County Comm'rs v. Geringer, 941 P.2d 742 (Wyo. 1997); V-1 Oil Co. v. State, 934 P.2d 740 (Wyo. 1997); NJC v. State, 913 P.2d 435 (Wyo. 1996); Campbell v. State, 999 P.2d 649 (Wyo. 2000); Frantz v. Campbell County Memorial Hospital, 932 P.2d 75......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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