This court, by order dated September 10, 1980, granted the petitioners' petition for leave to commence an original action for a declaratory judgment with regard to the authority of the secretary of the Department of Administration under sec. 16.50(2), Stats., to reduce shared revenue payments to municipalities. The facts in the case are not in dispute, the parties having filed an "Agreed Statement of Facts" with the court.
The agreed facts will be referred to in the decision.
(1) Does sec. 16.50(1) and (2), Stats., authorize respondents to reduce payments to municipalities under secs. 79.03 and 79.16(3) below amounts appropriated by the legislature for distribution to all municipalities on November 17, 1980?
STATEMENT OF THE CASE
Under the state budget law for the biennium July 1, 1979, to June 30, 1981, the legislature appropriated the sum of $413 million to the "shared revenue account" for distribution to all municipalities in fiscal year 1980-81 pursuant to secs. 79.03(2) and 79.03(4) (f), Stats.
The respondent Lindner, based on the certification of respondent Musolf, is to make a November distribution from the "shared revenue account" pursuant to sec. 79.03, Stats., on the third Monday in November. Under sec. 79.16(3), the personal property tax relief transfer payment is to be distributed to municipalities along with the November distribution of shared revenues. Under current estimates of the respondents, there will be sufficient revenue available in the general fund to make all payments to municipalities in November of 1980 in accordance with appropriations of the legislature for that purpose. Indeed, based upon respondents' estimates, there will be sufficient revenue available in the general fund to meet all expenditures contemplated under appropriations of the legislature during that quarter.
Based in part on revised estimates submitted by respondent Musolf for the fiscal year 1980-81, respondent Lindner has projected a budget deficit for the fiscal year 1980-81 of $145.4 million. This means that under current estimates of the respondents, there will not be sufficient revenue available in the general fund during the second quarter of calendar year 1981 (fourth quarter fiscal 1980-81) to meet all expenditures contemplated by appropriations of the legislature as reflected by the biennium budget. Based upon the projected deficit at the close of fiscal year 1980-81, respondent Lindner has
Respondents claim authority to make the aforementioned reduction in the November distribution to all municipalities under sec. 16.50(2), Stats.
The "Municipal and County Shared Tax Account" was established at sec. 79.01, Stats., by ch. 125, Laws of 1971. It was changed into a Shared Revenue System by ch. 29, Laws of 1977.
Ch. 125, Laws of 1971, completely revised the method of sharing state collected taxes with local units of government. Beginning in 1972, the local share of the income taxes, utility taxes, liquor taxes and motor vehicle registration fees were placed in the Municipal and County Shared Tax Account. This account became the "Municipal and County Shared Revenue Account" established at sec. 79.01(2), Stats.,
Ch. 34, Laws of 1979, made further refinements in the Shared Revenue System. Sec. 79.03(4)(f), Stats.,
Thus a system whereby local revenue sharing would fluctuate with the rise and fall of state revenues was changed to a system of fixed appropriations. As state revenues increased, greater amounts of funds would be available for other state purposes. As state revenues decreased, lesser amounts of funds would be available for other state purposes.
It is obvious from this legislative history that the Wisconsin legislature introduced a measure of stability in local government revenues by the fixed appropriations of $372 million and $413 million for 1979 and 1980, respectively.
A formula for adjustments for future years was established by ch. 29, Laws of 1977. Beginning in the 1981-82 fiscal year the shared revenues will be adjusted by the annual percentage increase in general fund revenues, with the annual increase of not more than 12% nor less than 5%. Sec. 79.03 (4) (c), Stats.
(1) Per capita payments
(2) Utility payments
(3) Aidable revenue payments
(4) Minimum guaranteed payments.
The legislature made it clear in the 1979 budget bill at sec. 905m, ch. 34, Laws of 1979, amending sec. 79.03 (4) (f), Stats., in making the appropriation to the shared revenue account as to the intent that the moneys provided were to be distributed. The section is stated in mandatory terms: ". . . In 1979 and 1980 the total amount to be distributed. . . shall be $372,000,000 and $413,000,000, respectively." (Emphasis added.)
Sec. 16.50(1) and (2), Stats., reads as follows:
"(2) ACTION THEREON BY SECRETARY. The secretary shall examine each such estimate to determine whether appropriations are available therefor and can be made without incurring danger of exhausting such appropriations before the end of the appropriation period and whether there will be sufficient revenue to meet such contemplated expenditures. The secretary also shall examine each estimate to assure as nearly as possible that the proposed plan of program execution reflects the intentions
"There are some rules of construction which are fundamental to this case. First, when statutory language is clear and unambiguous,
"`. . . no judicial rule of construction is permitted, and the court must arrive at the intention of the legislature by giving the language its ordinary and accepted meaning.' West Allis v. Rainey (1967), 36 Wis.2d 489, 495, 153 N.W.2d 514; and State v. Resler (1952), 262 Wis. 285, 55 N.W.2d 35."
The test to determine whether a statute is ambiguous also was stated in National Amusement, supra, at 267:
"This court has consistently used the same test for ambiguity:
"`A statute or portion thereof is ambiguous when it is capable of being understood by reasonably, well-informed persons in either of two or more senses.' State ex rel. Neelen v. Lucas (1964), 24 Wis.2d 262, 267, 128 N.W.2d 425, citing State ex rel. West Allis v. Dieringer (1957), 275 Wis. 208, 218, 81 N.W.2d 533."
"`. . . In construing or "interpreting" a statute the court is not at liberty to disregard the plain, clear words of the statute.' State v. Pratt (1967), 36 Wis.2d 312, 317, 153 N.W.2d 18." National Amusement, supra, at 268.
Sec. 16.50, Stats., is not ambiguous on its face, conveys a plain meaning and resort to matters outside the statute, such as legislative history to interpret it, is not necessary nor permissible.
Ch. 34, Laws of 1979, referred to as the Executive Budget Bill, in sec. 20.56, Stats. (Department of Revenue) contains no reference to the shared revenue nor to the property tax relief appropriations. Neither are they listed under sec. 20.505 for the Department of Administration. These appropriations are found in sec. 20.835, "General Appropriations." They therefore were not contemplated by the legislature to be a division, activity, function or program of the Department of Revenue, nor of the Department of Administration and, therefore, are not under the requirements of sec. 16.50. The Department of Revenue under the budget bill is a conduit only for the funds appropriated under shared revenue and property tax relief to be transferred to the municipalities and counties.
The attempted application of the statute by the secretary is not in accord with the plain and unambiguous language of the statute. The action attempted by the secretary would be contrary to legislative intent clearly stated and can be achieved only by the legislature.
The purported interpretation of the statute by the secretary is not binding upon the court. Ordinarily the interpretation placed upon a statute by an administrative agency charged with the duty of applying such statute is
"`. . . administrative interpretation is only of significance where there is an ambiguity in the statute. It cannot overcome the plain wording of a statute where there is no ambiguity.' Nelson v. Ohio Casualty Ins. Co. (1966), 29 Wis.2d 315, 320, 139 N.W.2d 33." National Amusement, supra, at 274.
"`When a plain meaning of a word of a statute or contract is apparent, we need not resort to either construction or case law to bolster our recognition of that plain meaning.'"
The court does not discuss sec. 20.725, Stats. (now sec. 13.101(7)(b)1.) due to the clear and unambiguous meaning of sec. 16.50(1) and (2), the statute relied on by the secretary of administration for the action attempted.
By the Court.—The court issues a permanent injunction enjoining the respondent, secretary of the Department of Administration, from reducing payments to municipalities under secs. 79.03 and 79.16(3), Stats., below amounts appropriated by the legislature for distribution to all municipalities on November 17, 1980.
"(2) (a) Every municipality's portion of the amount distributable under sub. (1) based on population shall, except as affected by s. 79.06(1), equal .8375 of the final distribution per capita factor times its population, as defined in s. 79.07, and every county's portion of the amount distributable under sub. (1) based on its population shall equal .1625 of the final distribution per capita factor times its population, as defined in s. 79.07.
"(b) For purposes of par. (a), `final distribution per capita factor' means:
"1. For the 1976 distribution, $40.
"2. For the 1977 to 1983 distributions, the lesser of the product of the 1976 population of the state times $40 divided by the population of the state in the current year, or $40.
"3. For the 1984 distribution and thereafter, the total amount distributed under s. 70.966(2) (b) in 1983 divided by the population of the state in the current year, plus the amount determined under subd. 2."
"79.03(4) (f) In 1979 and 1980 the total amount to be distributed under this subchapter, except amounts distributed under s. 79.06, shall be $372,000,000 and $413,000,000, respectively."
"(2) There is established an account in the general fund entitled the `Municipal and County Shared Revenue Account,' referred to in this chapter as the `shared revenue account.' There shall be appropriated to the shared revenue account the sums specified in this subchapter."
"(c) Annually, beginning in 1979, the amount entered into the shared revenue account for total distributions under this subchapter shall increase over the amount entered for the prior year, excluding the amount transferred from the appropriation under s. 20.835(2) (b) pursuant to s. 79.16, by the same rate as the actual rate of annual increase in the amount of general fund tax revenue collected by the state in the fiscal year ending during the calendar year of the distribution under this section, but not more than 12% or less than 5%. The amount entered in the shared revenue account in fiscal year 1982-83 under s. 79.17(7) shall be considered as part of the prior year base amount for the purpose of computing the calendar year 1983 distribution under this paragraph. The total amount paid to municipalities and counties in 1983 under s. 70.996 shall be considered as part of the prior year base amount for the purpose of computing the calendar year 1984 distribution under this paragraph."