This is an appeal from a judgment of the Law Division in a proceeding in lieu of prerogative writs which, among other things, found three line items in the General Appropriations Act passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor for the fiscal year 1974-1975 unconstitutional.
The facts are undisputed. The General Appropriations Act adopted by the Legislature and signed by the Governor for the fiscal year 1974-1975 contained the following appropriations:
To the capital district for municipal services and in lieu of taxes:
Trenton ($ 560,000) Ewing Township ($ 300,000)
The act also included an appropriation to Rutgers, The State University, of which $265,000 was to be allocated to the City of New Brunswick for municipal services. These appropriations were in fact paid to the three municipalities during the fiscal year in question.
The Borough of Glassboro instituted this action in lieu of prerogative writs, demanding that defendant Governor and the New Jersey Senate and General Assembly supplement the state budget for the fiscal year 1974-1975 by providing appropriations to it, and other similarly situated municipalities, payments in lieu of taxes for state-owned land and facilities in such municipalities — the same as had allegedly
The trial judge, in an oral opinion, found the three line items in question to be unconstitutional in that they constituted private, local or special laws relating to taxation or the exemption therefrom. He refused to order the three municipalities to pay back the monies that they received, but he enjoined the Governor, the Senate and the General Assembly from enacting into law that portion of the new state budget which concerned appropriations to Trenton, Ewing and New Brunswick for municipal services and as payments in lieu of taxes. We disagree with his conclusions and reverse.
The trial judge seemingly recognized that municipalities cannot be the subject of discriminatory practice by the State. Clearly, equal protection considerations do not apply to municipal corporations which are the creatures of the State itself. His approach, rather, was that the three line items in question each constituted in itself a local, private or special law which was related to taxation. He found that since this was so our Constitution prohibited their enactment absent the special procedures established in the Constitution. We fail to find a rational basis for his conclusion. Clearly, the line items here are not laws of themselves. They
In our judgment these line item appropriations cannot be questioned by the municipalities concerned in the courts. The appropriations represent an exercise of legislative judgment. As such, they constituted a purely political decision and an exercise of governmental discretion. We fail to find any justiciable issue in the exercise of such power.
We also observe that the appropriations made to each municipality concerned represent a decision by the Legislature to reimburse those political subdivisions for the extraordinary services they are called upon to render because of the extensive existence of state-owned facilities within their borders. An obvious example comes to mind in the case of the City of Trenton: the existence of the State Capitol building itself, which draws numerous visitors, taxpayers, demonstrators and the like — all seeking to exert some kind of influence or pressure upon legislators and the Governor. In instances where a large number of citizens appear the facilities of the City of Trenton are sorely taxed. The line appropriation in question represents a quid pro quo for the strain placed upon the municipal government. Similar examples come readily to mind with respect to New Brunswick within the borders of which is found the State University, and Ewing Township which contains many of the State's departmental facilities.
The judgment of the Law Division is reversed.