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ATA Wins Idaho Weight-Distance Tax Challenge

February 23, 2000

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An Idaho District Court has struck down the state's weight-distance tax reduced-rate provision, finding it violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

After a two-week trial, the Court said the American Trucking Assns., which filed the suit, had presented clear and convincing evidence that the provision was tailored to benefit "local production and intrastate travel" and that "the state has provided a direct commercial advantage to Idaho commercial carriers to the disadvantage of non-Idaho commercial carriers."
ATA president Walter McCormick said Tuesday's decision was confirmation that "states cannot manipulate their tax systems to place a disproportionate share of their highway tax burden on the backs of interstate motor carriers."
The Idaho court specifically rejected the state's contention that the reduced-rate provision, which provides as much as a 50% tax reduction for carriage of leading Idaho natural resources, was justified because trucks hauling those products cause less road wear. Instead, because of their greater average operating weights, trucks hauling the reduced-rate commodities "cause greater road wear than general commodity trucks."
Based on the finding of unconstitutional discrimination against interstate commerce, the Court enjoined further application of the reduced rate after March 1, 2000.
Elimination of the reduced-rate will greatly enhance the chances of repealing the Idaho weight-distance tax, according to ATA.
ATA counsel Robert Digges, who successfully argued the case, said the District Court plans further proceedings on the issue of damages. Millions of dollars in discriminatory tax payments may be subject to refund.

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