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The system of taxation actually in force includes all of the kinds of taxes named. There are over one hundred taxable privileges,' including the inheritance of property and a number of special corporation taxes.
The administration of the taxation system is left principally to the assessors elected by the voters of the counties, and to the county court clerks. There is some ineffective supervision by the comptroller's office and boards of equalization appointed by the county courts and mayors of cities review the assessment of property. The property of railroad, telegraph and telephone companies is assessed by the railroad commission. There are two ex officio state boards of equalization, one for reviewing the assessment of the railroad commission, the other for the assessments of the county assessors.”
Dissatisfaction with the widespread under-assessment of property and also with the law governing back assessments led to the appointment by the governor in 1915," of a special tax committee composed of six citizens who served without pay. They made a number of recommendations, among them (1) the creation of a permanent tax commission with stringent supervisory powers over the local assessors, including power of removal from office; (2) the taxation of the income of certain kinds of intangible property in lieu of the property itself,' and (3) the nearly complete abolition of back assessment. The bills in which they embodied their proposals were not considered by the legislature, but a separate act was passed changing the back tax law somewhat in accordance with their recommendations.
Incomes from stocks and bonds not taxed ad valorem must be listed as per. sonal property
'Acts of 1915, ch. 101.
The tax law as in force in 1907 is compiled in R. T. Shannon's Tax Digest and Criminal Cost Laus, obtainable from state comptroller.
Acts of 1907, ch. 602.
Memphis, Nashville and a few small towns assess the property of the city for city purposes; the county assessor assesses the same property for state and county purposes.
"Acts of 1915, Senate Joint Resolution No. 27.
SLien and mortgage notes were defined as bonds and it was hoped that under the clause of the constitution permitting the taxation of the income from bonds not taxed ad valorem, this exception to the general property tax might be valid.
Acts of 1915, ch, 124. The Committee's report was published separately and also in the Appendir to Legisaltire Journals, 1915, No. 6. For a brief account of the work of the committee, see article by present writer in Proceedings of the Ninth National Conference of the National Tax Association, p. 272. For brief account of current Tennessee conditions, see, in addition to the Committee's report, Official Report, first annual convention of Tenn. Manufacturers' Association (1913), p. 20; Publications of Public Efficiency League of Knoxville, I, 1.
232. Explanation of the Use of Public Credit.
The custom of using public credit as a means of financing public expenditures, though of mediaeval origin, did not attain to the hugeness of its present proportions until the nine. teenth century. It is made possible by the constitutionalism in government that has grown up during the last two hundred years. “The broad theory of constitutional liberty," says Professor Adams,
is that the people have the right to govern themselves; but the historical fact is that, in the attempt to realize this theory, the actual control of public affairs has fallen into the hands of those who possess property.
It follows from this that when property-owners lend to the government, they lend to a corporation controlled by themselves. The confidence which they repose in government does not rest upon sentiment or patriotism, nor does it show greater integrity on the part of people now than in former times; its simple interpretation is that the possessing classes have made their conception of rights and liberty the efficient idea of modern times, and that in some way the moneyed interest has captured the machinery of government. Our modern political society is properly characterized as commercial constitutionalism, and out of this fact arises such guarantee as exists that moneys borrowed by governments will be repaid.
While admitting the truth of these statements students of finance lay equal stress upon the modern custom of making use of credit in the conduct of all business as explanatory of the expansion of public credit. It is doubtless true also that when states, like individuals, find that their credit is good, the temptation to use it is likely to wait only for a special occasion to prove irresistible. The occasion in Europe was the vast need for funds to prosecute the Napoleonic wars. The occasion in the American states was the great enthusiasm for internal improvements, for the quick attainment of desired means of com
1General References: Adams, H. C., Public Debts; also Science of Finance, Part II. Book III ; Bullock, C. J., Selected Readings in Public Finance; ch. 20, 24 ; Plehn, C. C., Introduction to Public Finance, Part III.
2Public Debts, 9.
munication, which the Jacksonian Democracy decreed should be met by the states instead of by the federal government. The occasion in American cities was the progressive increase of necessary expenses incident to their phenomenal growth in the latter half of the nineteenth century. These expenditures were enormously augmented by the insistence upon unnecessary outlays by owners of suburban real estate who saw in public improvements, such as streets and boulevards, paid for with borrowed money, a means of rapid increment in land values without the corresponding decrement which a high tax rate would entail.
Such a practice invited disaster—which was made inevitable by ignorance and neglect of correct administrative methods. Against Careless administration is usually incident to popular govern- Indebtedness. ment, and was in the United States of that time at least, countenanced by a none too strict ideal of care and honesty in private business dealings. Furthermore, there was a deplorable lack of judgment in many of the public improvement schemes which were conceived and undertaken. Naturally reaction followed. * Constitutional clauses framed in the thirties requiring the leg. islatures to provide internal improvements gave way to or were supplemented by severe restrictions upon the borrowing power. In the constitutions as they stand today prohibitions of indebtedness are very prominent.
One state forbids the loan of its credit "for any purpose whatever," and the issuance of “any interest-bearing treasury warrants or scrip;" and fifteen others' prohibit the creation of debts by the state except for specified purposes,—with reference to liabilities previously incurred;' in order to supply deficiences of revenue or expenses not provided forl or of any extraordi
The bond issues for the benefit of private companies were, of course, expected to be repaid by those companies.
*Concerning the repudiation measures which have been enacted in the states of Ala.. Ark., Fla., Ga., La., Mich., Minn., Viss., N. C., S. C., Tenn., Va., see W. A. Scott, The Repudiation of State Debts.
"See, e. g., Mich. Const., 1837. For provision of Tenn. Const., 1834, see Art. XI, sec. 9.
Ark., XVI, 1.
*Ala., XI, 213; Colo., XI, 3; Fla., IX, 6; Ga., VII, sec. III, 1, sec. XII, 1 ; Ind.. 5: La., 46; Mich., X, 11 ; Minn., IX, 7: Mo., V, 44; 0., VIII, 3; Pa., IX, 4; Tex., III, 49 ; Va., XIII, 84; W. Va., X, 4; Wis., VIII, 4, 9.
"Ala., Fla., Ga., Ind., La., Mo., O., Pa., Tex.. Va., W. Va. Several constitutions expressly provide for the assumption of pre-state debts,—e. 9., Okla., I, 4.
'Ala., XI, 213: Colo., XI, 3; Ga., VII, sec. III, 1 ; Ind., X, 5; Mich., X, 10; Mo., IV, 44 ; 0., VIII, 1 ; Pa., IX, 4 ; Tex., III. 49; Va., XIII, 184; W. Va., X, 4.
10., VIII, 1.
234. Debt Referenda.
nary kind,” or to meet some “unforeseen emergency,"3
About one-third of the states prohibit the creation of any debt without a referendum to the electorate, but here, also, there are several exceptions, for the most part similar to those above given. With analogous exceptions, also, Delaware requires for the passage of a law authorizing a state debt the concurrence of three-fourths of the members elected to each house of the legislature, and North Carolina® prohibits the creation of any new obligations unless in the same bill a tax is provided to pay the annual interest. New York excepts from the referendum the amount of fifty million dollars for the improvement of highways.
State aid to local communities, especially cities, is frequently forbidden' as is also the assumption by the state of local indebtedness.?
Forty states: prohibit the use of the state's credit in aid of private or corporate enterprise, but some of these make exception for educational or charitable purposes. Likewise, the assumption of private or corporate debt is sometimes forbidden.“ The aid of state credit for specific kinds of enterprise, as rail
235. State Aid Forbidden.
Minn., IX, 5; Wis., VIII, 9. 3M0., IV, 44.
*Ala., XI, 213: Colo., XI, 3; Fla., IX, 6; Ga., VII, sec. III, 1; Ind., X, 5: La., 46 ; Mich., X, 10; Minn., IX, T: 0., VIII, 2; Pa., IX 4; Tex., III, 49; Va., XIII, 184 ; W. Va., X, 4; Wis., VIII, 9.
be. 9., Ill., IV. 18; Iowa, VII, 5; Ky., 50; N. M., IX, 8, 15; N. Y., VII, 4; Okla., X, 25 ; S. C., X, 11 ; Wash., VIII, 3. See, also, R. I., IV, 13,- Legislature not to "pledge the faith of the state for the payment of the obligations of others" without the consent of the people ; but this does not apply to money deposited with the state by the United States. See, also, Ariz., VII, 13; Utah, IV, 7; Mich., III, 4.
Cal., IV, 31 ; Colo., XI, 1 ; Ida., VIII, 2; III., IV, 20 : Ky., 177 : La., 58 ; Mich., X, 12; Mo., IV, 45 : N. M., IX, 14, 15 ; Okla., X, 15; Tenn., II, 31 ; Tex., III, 50 ; Va., XIII, 185 ; W. Va., x, 6. Del. requires vote of three-fourths the members elected to each house, VIII, 4,
2Colo., XI, 1 ; III., IV, 20; Ind., X, 6; La., 58 ; Utah, XIV, 6; Va., XIII, 185 ; W. Va., X, 6. Excepting indebtedness for purposes of defence-Ark., XII, 12; Ga., VII, sec. VIII, 1; Ida., XII, 3 ; Ky., 176 ; Me., IX, 15 ; Nev., IX, 4; 0., VIII, 5; Okla., X, 14; Ore., XI, 8; also Pa., IX, 9 (further exception of assisting state to discharge “present" debt). See, also, Ill., Sched. 24.
3e. g., Ind., XI, 12 ; La., 58; Tenn., II, 31; see, also, Del. VIII, 4; N. C., V, 4 *e. g., Ind., X, 6; Ia., VII, 1 ; S. D., XIII, 1.
roads, canals, telegraph lines, banks or internal improvements, finds occasional prohibition.”
The specific authorization of indebtedness is also frequently found, as for expenses not provided for or of an extraordinary tion and nature, or to meet deficiencies of revenue. Such debts, to a Indebtedness. limited amount, may sometimes be entered into by administrative officers. Limitations on the amount vary from $50,0007 to $1,000,000.8 For the payment of existing indebtedness, and the defence of the state, as well as for the constructive purposes of providing public improvements, as buildings or highways,* debts are also sometimes authorized.
Limitations upon the amount of the state debt as a whole are contained in some constitutions and are of two kinds, specific maxima expressed in dollars and percentages of the assessed value of the taxable property of the state. A few states set limitations to apply in case there is no referendum to the voters.
The manner of giving evidence of indebtedness, as by bonds, is a not unknown prescription nor is the denomination of the bonds or their sale price. Minnesota,' for instance, enjoins that they shall not be sold below par. Extraordinary procedure in the passage of laws providing for the use of public credit is not infrequently required.” A large majority of the constitutions require that such laws
Provisions shall include provision for a tax levy or the setting aside of a for Payment.
. sinking fund for the payment of interest or both interest and
5e. ., Tenn., II, 33; Ind., X, 7; Wyo., X, Railroads 5; Ala., XIII, 253, IV, 93.
Be. g., Utah, XIV, 1 (1/2 per cent.); Wyo., XVI, 1 (1 per cent.). Certain exceptions in each case.
ie. J., Cal., XVI, 1 ; Ida., VIII, 1; Wyo., XVI, 2.
9e. g., to be in amounts of not less than $50,--S. C., X, 11. See, also, Colo., XI, 3: Minn., IX, 6.