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AGO 1958 No. 190 - May 07, 1958
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

TAXATION ‑- DEDUCTION OF REFUND OF URBAN TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM OR MOTOR VEHICLE FUEL TAX FROM SUMS CREDITED TO CITIES.

CITIES AND TOWNS ‑- DEDUCTION OF SUMS IN MOTOR VEHICLE FUND CREDITED TO CITY WHERE REFUNDED TO URBAN TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM.

LEGISLATURE ‑- AUTHORITY TO SPECIFY MEANS OF REFUNDING MOTOR VEHICLE FUEL TAX TO URBAN TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM.

Legislature is authorized to provide that refund of urban transportation system of motor vehicle fuel tax collected on fuel used by such system be deducted from the sums in the motor vehicle fund credited to the city wherein the transportation system operates.

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                                                                    May 7, 1958

Honorable Daniel J. Evans, Chairman
Subcommittee on City Transit & Motor Vehicle
Exemptions
Joint Fact-Finding Committee on Highways,
Streets & Bridges
4323 East 44th Street
Seattle 5, Washington                                                                                   Cite as:  AGO 57-58 No. 190

Dear Sir:

            You have requested our opinion on the following matter.  RCW 82.36.275 (which expires June 20, 1959) provides for a refund to urban transportation systems of motor vehicle fuel taxes collected on fuel used by such systems.  You have asked whether this refund can be deducted from the sums in the motor vehicle fund credited to the cities wherein these transportation systems operate.

            We answer your question in the affirmative.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            RCW 82.36.275 provides in part:

            ". . . every urban passenger transportation system shall receive a refund of the amount of the motor vehicle fuel tax paid on each gallon of motor vehicle fuel used, . . ."

            RCW 46.68.090, in defining the "net tax amount" in the motor vehicle fund available for allocation to cities, counties and the state, provides in part:

            "All moneys accruing to the motor vehicle fund from the motor vehicle fuel tax shall be first expended for the following purposes:

            "(1) For payments of refunds of motor vehicle fuel tax which has been paid and is refundable as provided by law; . . ."

            RCW 46.68.100 provides for allocations of the "net tax amount" in the motor vehicle fund (amount remaining after payments as provided for in RCW 46.68.090, including payment of refunds) to cities and counties.

            RCW 46.68.130 provides in essence that the amount not deducted or distributed to cities and counties shall be expended by the state department of highways.

            It may be observed that motor vehicle fuel tax refunds, including refunds to urban transportation systems are "taken off the top" of the motor vehicle fund and diminish the amount remaining for distribution to counties and to the state as well as to cities.

            This system of deductions from and distribution of the motor vehicle fund is solely a matter of legislative policy.  We know of no constitutional reason why the amount of motor vehicle fuel tax refunded to the transportation system operating in a city, may not be deducted from the sums in the motor vehicle fund allocated or credited to such a city.  Legislation designed to accomplish this policy should be drafted to apply equally to all cities having such transportation systems so as to avoid the possible objection of being special legislation.

            With respect to such an objection, we may note that in the absence of constitutional prohibition, the enactment of special laws is within the power of the legislature.  Martin v. Tollefson, 24 Wn. (2d) 211.  Assuming for the sake of  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] argument, however, that such a constitutional prohibition exists in respect to statutory deductions from the motor vehicle fund, still a general policy of charging individual cities for the cost of refunds to transportation systems would not be forbidden.

            InMartin v. Tollefson, 24 Wn. (2d) 211, 217, our court held:

            "It is thoroughly well settled that the legislature may classify municipalities for the purpose of legislation and pass laws applicable only to those within the designated class, but:

            "'Such classification must not be based on existing circumstances only or so constituted as to preclude additions to the number included within a class, but must be of such a nature as to embrace all those who may thereafter be in similar circumstances and conditions.'  12 Am.Jur. 146, Constitutional Law, § 479."

            RCW 82.36.275 contains a definition of urban passenger transportation systems. An enactment providing that the share of motor vehicle funds credited to a city in which such a system operates shall be charged with the amount of refund of motor vehicle fuel tax paid to such transportation system would constitute a reasonable classification of cities with respect to such deductions and would not be special legislation.

            We hope the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

THOMAS R. GARLINGTON
Special Assistant Attorney General

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