OOIDA Sues States Over Fuel Taxes

February 23, 1999

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The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. has filed class action lawsuits against four states, seeking refunds of fuel taxes collected for miles driven on the states’ tollroads.

“The imposition of fuel taxes based upon miles driven on the tollroads is nothing short of double taxation,” says OOIDA President Jim Johnston. The suits, against Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and New York, allege that this double taxation is unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. “The Commerce Clause does not permit states to impose taxes or fees that exceed that which is reasonable and appropriate for the services provided,” Johnston says.
Complaints filed by OOIDA allege that annual reports of each of the tolling authorities show that these tollroads are completely self-sufficient financially. OOIDA contends that because tollroad users pay for that use once with their tolls, states cannot tax them for use of tollroads a second time through the fuel tax.
OOIDA estimates that fuel-use taxes collected from truckers for miles driven on tollroads in the four states represent hundreds of millions of dollars in double taxation.
Also named as a defendant in each of these suits is the International Fuel Tax Assn., better known as IFTA, a nonprofit association formed to coordinate the collection of fuel use taxes by individual states. OOIDA is not seeking damages from IFTA, but claims that IFTA’s assistance will be needed in order to coordinate the payment of tax refunds.
Ohio’s turnpike director agrees that fuel tax and tolls are double hits on the trucking industry. G. Alan Plain says he has made similar arguments to state lawmakers and the turnpike’s legislative oversight commission for the three years he has managed the tollroad.
“To me, it’s a matter of equity and we should be fair in what we do,” Plain told the Columbus Dispatch. “They shouldn’t have to pay the additional cost, since we pay for the road’s maintenance.” Plain says the turnpike receives 5 cents of the 22-cents-per-gallon state tax for all fuel purchased at service plazas on the turnpike. The rest goes into the state’s general highway fund.
Plain says he will watch the court action as an interested observer. However, the turnpike is not involved in the suit, which was filed against the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Department of Taxation.
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