Land Value Tax in The United States - Legality - Local Authorization

Local Authorization

Although uniformity clauses do not seem to be a major obstacle in most jurisdictions to land value taxation, control of local authority by the state legislature remains a real obstacle, requiring the need for local enabling authority or the abrogation of Dillon's Rule. The theory of state preeminence over local governments was expressed as Dillon's Rule in a 1868 case, where it was stated that "unicipal corporations owe their origin to, and derive their powers and rights wholly from, the legislature. It breathes into them the breath of life, without which they cannot exist. As it creates, so may it destroy. If it may destroy, it may abridge and control."

As opposed to Dillon's Rule, the Cooley Doctrine expressed the theory of an inherent right to local self determination. In a concurring opinion, Michigan Supreme Court Judge Thomas Cooley in 1871 stated: "ocal government is a matter of absolute right; and the state cannot take it away." In Maryland, for example, municipal corporations have the right to implement land value taxation, but the counties, including Baltimore City which is treated as a county in Maryland for certain purposes, do not. However, Dillon's Rule has been abandoned in some states, whether in whole by state constitution or state legislation or piecemeal by home rule legislation passed by the State Legislature. For example, the Virginia Legislature has granted land value tax authority to Fairfax and Roanoke.

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