West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and a 13 state bipartisan coalition won its court case Monday to protect the well-established authority of states to lower taxes for their citizens.
The lawsuit, filed in April, argued federal treasury officials cannot force states to relinquish control of their taxing authority in return for much-needed economic aid related to COVID-19. The states took specific issue with a stimulus bill provision that the coalition referred to as one of the most egregious power grabs by the federal government in the nation’s history.
“This is a great victory for states’ sovereignty and it sends a clear signal to the administration and Congress that they must operate within the confines of the Constitution,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “Our lawsuit was designed to protect West Virginia from federal overreach. We have accomplished this. This decision by the court also ensures our citizens aren’t stuck with an unforeseen bill from the feds years from now.”
The attorneys general argued that the mandate could be used to claw back a share of a state’s stimulus allotment if the Treasury Department concludes any part of the funds offset tax cuts, even indirectly. This would have created an impermissible chilling effect on state lawmakers’ willingness to reduce the tax burdens on their citizens.
The lawsuit sets forth charges of unconstitutional exercise of federal power, specifically violations of the 10th Amendment, the conditional spending doctrine and the anti-commandeering doctrine.
The court explained that Congress must be clear if it intends to impose a condition on the granting of federal monies — that is, it must do so unambiguously.
The court furthermore agreed with the plaintiff states that the federal tax mandate was ambiguous and violated the conditional spending doctrine, thus making it unconstitutional.
Finally, the court granted the request by the state attorneys general for a permanent injunction preventing the federal government from enforcing this provision against the 13 plaintiff states.
West Virginia co-led the coalition with Alabama and Arkansas with support from Alaska, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. Read a copy at https://bit.ly/39w2ssu.