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of taxation twice as much as for all others combined, and in consequence it may be fairly said that our rate of taxation is three to four times the rate which is imposed on individuals carrying on other pursuits, or dealing in other property. The only claim I have ever heard made in support of the requirement is that cars use a large portion of the street, almost to the exclusion of other vehicles, and that in order to run them, rails are laid upon the street, which are an inconvenience and injury to other vehicles, and interfere with them; that in effect a certain part of the street is set apart to the use of street-railroad cars, and it is there. fore reasonable that their owners should keep such parts of the street in repair.
It is proper to consider whether as a matter of principle these reasons justify the requirement of the street railroad companies to repair the streets. I assume that ordinarily streets are kept in repair by the municipal authorities through taxes imposed, sometimes upon the real estate along the streets, but usually upon general property. These streets are built and maintained for the express purpose of being run over and used by all sorts of vehicles. It is expected and desired that passengers shall pass over them, and that loads of all sorts shall be carried upon them. The pavements are made for that object, and it is deemed just, in respect to all other than street-railroads, that the burdens of such pavement, and such maintenance, should be borne by the public at large. Hack drivers and omnibuses carry passengers over the streets for purely private gain; other vehicles carry passengers for private gain or pleasure. The public reaps the advantage, and the public pays the expense.
The public ride, and individuals pay. There is no difference in principle in this respect between the street car and the omnibus, hack or carriage. The car is run for the gain of the owners, and for the convenience of the public. The public enjoy the advantages, including that of an extremely cheap rate. There is nothing in the mode of use, there is nothing in the nature of the benefit to the owner or to the public at large, which distinguishes the street car from the hack, or which justifies the imposition of a tax on the former that is not placed upon the latter.
If we consider the amount of wear and tear, the advantage is decidedly with the street car company. The company furnishes its rails, and only its animals wear the road. Other vehicles wear with their wheels, often excessively. The street car often carries on any one street more passengers than all other vehicles together. This means then that the public derive more benefit from the street cars than from all other vehicles together. But that is not a reason for a special tax on street cars. Rather the contrary. The streets are built and repaired for the very purpose of carrying passengers, an object recognized as a public object. Street cars are simply carrying out that object when they furnish facilities so cheap and convenient that they are more prized and more used than other vehicles. If paving and repairing streets constituted a work proper to be done because of necessity of accommodating the people that ride, then it should be particularly done for those vehicles in which the majority of the people do ride.
Another reason sometimes is assigned that the street-railroad companies place rails in the street which are in a degree inconvenient to other vehicles. That is true. It will be seen, and is probably a fact within the experience of you all,
that, unless the cars are so frequent as to prevent it, the rails are also an actual convenience and of great utility to ordinary vehicles, excepting the light, fast running carriages. The heavy loads seek the railroad tracks and occupy them, often hindering the cars. The street rails are the smoothest part of the ordinary road, and are consequently chosen by the drivers who wish thus to relieve their horses. I think it is not incorrect to say that the street rails on the whole are of more advantage than impediment to other vehicles. And it is also to be noticed that while other vehicles impede travel in exercising their unrestricted right to cross from one side to the other of the street and to occupy any portion of it, the cars are confined to a narrow space in the street, leaving the wider space to the vehicles, which carry the fewer passengers. If the street cars are so frequent that other vehicles are prevented from running on the railroad tracks, it proves that the passengers in them are numerous, and consequently that the majority of the public is served by them; the legitimate inference from which is that the street cars should be favored, and not oppressed.
It is said, also, that the street cars are protected by ordinances and laws; that they are authorized to collect fares, to receive moneys from passengers for riding. So are all other vehicles. There is really nothing worthy of consideration in an argument so trivial.
The last argument used, but perhaps the first one thought of by the defender of this peculiar charge, is that the street car companies, by virtue of the rights given them, are profitable and, therefore, can afford to pay. I say this is the argument least used, because upon the face of it it is unsound. Men are ashamed to utter it. If the company is profitable, and its property therefore increases in value, as it must in order to be profitable, it is taxable, and usually it is taxed very freely in proportion. There is no more propriety in a double tax on a street railroad because it is prosperous, than on any other business. It should be justly taxed in proportion to its property, and not beyond. It is quite well known to you all that the pitch of prosperity to which some of our street-railroad companies have reached, is by no means attained by all, and that many of the street-railroad companies of the United States have had from the beginning a hard struggle to maintain themselves, and now have; while those which have now an established and handsome income, have usually succeeded to that result after long and painful struggles, during which the owners have been forced to advance large sums of money upon the uncertain hope of ultimate return. It is rare, indeed, according to my observation, that the money invested in street railroads would not have proved equally remunerative if invested at the same time in real estate upon the same streets. The increased prosperity of the transit company results from the growing wealth of the city, or of that part of the city where the company's tracks are laid. Even in our largest cities where the street-railroad companies have seemed to enjoy a phenomenal income, the owners of the lots and buildings by the side of the tracks have shared the increase in value without being subject to the cares and burdens of a control by municipal authorities. The freedom which the owners of the lands enjoy affords a pleasing contrast to the restrictions placed upon the street car owners, and those restrictions, as many of us have had occasion to see, are not always the determinations of calm reason, but sometimes proceed from ignorance, jealousy or revenge.
And though I digress for a moment, it has occurred to me that it might be of interest to you to know that the Company which I represent has tested the question under our laws in connection with an ordinance of the Common Council passed last Spring which increased the rate of license fifty per cent. During my absence the Company thought best to dispute the power of the Common Council to pass that ordinance. The Company was finally defeated in the
The Supreme Court of our State held the subject to be within the control of the Common Council, which had originally passed the ordinance and fixed the license. The Company's claim was that the license having been fixed by the original ordinance that granted the right to lay tracks and run cars, and having been accepted, had thus become a contract which neither side could disturb.
There seems to me to be no just principle on which street railroad property should be taxed in excess of other property. While, however, modes of taxation are so various, it can hardly be expected that justice and uniformity will be applied in this regard to municipal dealings with our companies.
From our tables, representing ninety-four companies, it appears:
1. That, with but rare exceptions, the property of railroad companies is subject to taxation.
2. That the real estate of the companies is generally taxed usually about as that of individuals is taxed. The taxation does not in any case exceed the rate of about two per cent. on the actual value of the real estate; it is in many instances less.
3. The receipts of companies are not usually taxed. In twenty-one cases out of ninety-four, the gross receipts appear to be taxed at rates varying from five mills to eight mills upon the dollar. In Baltimore only is there in one case a tax stated to be nine per cent. on the gross receipts of the company; but if I understand the returns from that company, there is no other taxation. Still, an amount so enormous seems utterly unaccountable and unreasonable.
4. The capital stock is taxed in thirty-seven cases out of ninety-four. From this tax is generally deducted the tax paid upon assessed value of property, and usually when tax is paid on the capital stock, it is not paid upon the property of the company. There is nothing in the tables which I have examined to indicate that this mode of taxation constitutes a peculiar hardship.
5. Dividends are sometimes taxed, but in only nine or ten cases. And this tax is usually closely connected with the tax upon the capital stock. In Wisconsin no taxes are imposed upon the capital stock of corporations, but always upon its property of every kind.
6. When railroad tracks are assessed, they seem to be rated at from two to five thousand dollars per mile of single track. Although in some instances the assessmen is, as doubtless it ought to be, as low as one thousand dollars
7. Licenses greatly vary. On fifty-eight roads no licenses are reported as paid. On the remainder, the licenses seem to vary from one dollar a car up to fifty dollars per car per annum.
8. The area of paving, and repairing of roadbed required to be done by the companies, also greatly varies. In some cases no such requirement is made. In fifty-six reports the companies are required to pave or keep in repair all the tracks between their own rails. In the remainder no work of that kind seems to be required ; but the city or village probably does that work. In Pennsylvania some roads seem to be required to keep in order the entire street from curb to curb. The apparent injustice is, however, mitigated, if I understand the reports, by a diminution of other taxes.
9. Sweeping and sprinkling the tracks are not usually required of the companies, but probably the cleaning is frequently done by them.
There is so great variation, as appears from the returns, that I do not think general deductions can be drawn, or any useful purpose subserved by giving further details. Each company, member of this Association, knows its own interests, the laws which regulate the taxation of its own property, the difficulties with which it has to contend, the hardships it endures. Probably those companies are most fortunate which are working under unchangeable regulations, or are subject only to the control of intelligent Commissioners, a fact which I found to prevail generally in Europe, so far as I was casually able to get information upon the question there, and not of a body of municipal legislators who are utterly ignorant of the subject, and yet desirous to show how great is their sympathy for individual taxpayers, and how little they care for justice to corporations.
Applause followed the reading of the report.
DISCUSSION ENSUING ON STREET-RAILWAY TAXATION.
The President: The paper is before you ; we should be glad to hear from any gentleman upon the subject.
REMARKS OF MR. WILLIAM MCCREERY ON STREET.
Mr. McCreery, of Pittsburgh : This matter comes very close to me, as I hail from the Banner City of the Banner State of this
country in regard to taxation. As we all like to have something to brag about, it is the only thing I have been able to find. In regard to taxation in the city of Pittsburgh, I would say that we are required to pave the street from curb to curh, and keep it in perpetual repair. We are required to scrape and clean it as often as the Street Commissioner orders it to be done. Our road is unfortunately situated, Mr. President; we are on both sides of a river which is not very broad, and which is spanned by a number of bridges, which should be public highways but they are not, and there is a toll-gate on each end of each bridge. We are required to pay the small license of fifty dollars on one side for each bob-tail car, and we are required to pay a license of twelve dollars and fifty cents on the other side ; and one hundred and twenty-five dollars per car for crossing that public highway over that little river. We are required to pay the city of Allegheny five per cent, on all dividends, and the State of Pennsylvania five per cent. on all dividends, and eight-tenths of one per cent. on gross receipts. [Laughter.] Allow me a little longer time; you have not got the half of it. These things come on us regularly ; and now we are promised, in addition to them, if we will elect a certain gentleman to the Legislature, he will be careful in future legislation to see that the corporations pay the entire expenses of the State. Mr. Chairman, the only parallel that I ever saw to it was when I was a boy. A man sent a skin to the tanner to be tanned. The tanner was his father-in-law; and the tanner said it generally took a year to tan a skin, and that the owner received onehalf and the tanner kept the other half. After the tanner had the skin a year, the man sent for it, and the tanner sent back word that he charged one-half for tanning and one-half for currying ; and if it had not been a good skin, he would have brought him in in debt. [Laughter.]
REMARKS OF MR. DANIEL B. HASBROUCK ON STREET.
Mr. Hasbrouck : I regret that I am not provided with a pamphlet issued by the New York State Association, in which Hon. G. Hilton Scribner sets forth the wrongs under which we suffer in New York.
We pay a tax on our real estate, and for the purpose of taxation our tracks are also held to be real estate.
We pay a tax on our personal property which is assessed at the aggregate market value of the entire issue of stock, we pay a tax on the gross earnings and we pay again on the net earnings or dividends, so that the latter being a part of the former and both a part of the personal estate, it follows that the gross earnings are taxed twice and the net earnings three times.
We pay a car license, and each company also pays its share of the expense of maintaining three Railroad Commissioners. I will send my friend from Pittsburgh a copy of the pamphlet referred