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November 14, 2003
Franklin Roosevelt, Agriculture, and New York Property Taxation
Joseph J. Thorndike

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Joseph J. Thorndike is director of the Tax History Project at Tax Analysts. This article is part of a larger project on U.S. tax policy during the Great Depression and World War II. For more information on the project, visit http://www.taxhistory.org.


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As governor of New York, Franklin Roosevelt took a simple approach to tax policy: Make the cuts broad and the increases narrow. When times were good, he championed sweeping reductions in property and income taxes, slashing tax bills for millions of New Yorkers. When the economy turned sour, he turned this distributive model on its head, pushing through a pair of increases aimed at the state's richest taxpayers. It was a politically driven formula, but it also reflected Roosevelt's commitment to tax justice, especially during hard times.

Roosevelt's tax ideas were conventional for a mainstream Democrat. In fact, he was more faithful to the party's progressive tradition than many of its national leaders. While such conservative Democrats as John Raskob and Jouett Shouse spent the early 1930s championing a regressive federal sales tax, Roosevelt joined rank- and-file party members in rejecting broad-based sales levies. Even after the Great Depression sparked a ruinous decline in New York State's tax revenues, Roosevelt stood firm. Other states flocked to the sales tax, despairing of the income tax as a primary revenue source. But Roosevelt resisted the temptation, instead seeking huge rate hikes for the state's richest citizens.

For all his progressive convictions, Roosevelt was not wholly opposed to consumption taxes. Like most Democrats, he distinguished between broad sales levies and narrow consumption taxes on specific commodities. He was a vocal champion, for instance, of the state gasoline tax, enacted during his first year as governor. Roosevelt defended it as a user fee, stressing that most of its revenue would be used for highway maintenance and repair. The tax was notably regressive, but the user fee argument gave it a plausible claim to fairness. For Roosevelt -- and most of his contemporaries -- progressivity was only one measure of tax equity.

Nonetheless, progressivity was still the most important standard, and Roosevelt was one of its principal champions. He had a particular fondness for progressive rate structures in the upper reaches of the income tax. His income tax cuts of 1929 -- enacted over the objections of state Republican leaders -- proved a boon for wealthy taxpayers. And Roosevelt's campaign for property tax relief brought a windfall to wealthy landowners. But when the Great Depression dried up revenues, Roosevelt twice proposed major increases in the state income tax, insisting that it was the fairest means of raising money. Just as important, he rejected suggestions to broaden the income tax by reducing its exemptions; under Roosevelt, the income tax would remain a rich man's burden, with steep rates and a distinctly narrow base.

When Roosevelt moved from Albany, N.Y., to Washington, he brought both parts of this tax agenda with him: a tolerance for selective consumption taxes and a penchant for steep income levies. Even more important, though, he brought people along as well. Henry Morgenthau, principal architect of Roosevelt's property tax reform, soon became Secretary of the Treasury, making him a central player in New Deal revenue policy. He, in turn, recruited a staff of tax experts, relying heavily on colleagues from New York. Economists Robert Murray Haig, Carl Shoup, and Mabel Newcomer spent the early 1930s drafting an ambitious -- if ultimately fruitless -- tax reform agenda for New York State. Roosevelt encouraged their research, establishing a blue-ribbon panel to consider wholesale tax revision. Ultimately, however, he proved unwilling to accept their expert advice, rejecting their plan to broaden the state income tax dramatically. Still, the work of these experts was anything but fruitless. They began to develop institutional expertise and credibility, both singly and as a group. Drawing on their shared academic connections, forged primarily at Columbia University, they began to develop a compelling argument for broader income taxation. When Roosevelt moved to Washington, these experts went with him. And they brought their ideas along as well.

Agriculture and Taxes

Soon after taking office in January 1929, Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt dove headlong into a major debate over agriculture. Farm problems were a fixture of political debate across the nation, and President Herbert Hoover had signaled his interest in providing some measure of farm relief during an upcoming special session of Congress. Plagued by chronic overproduction, American farmers never shared in the much-vaunted prosperity of the 1920s, and experts offered a variety of solutions. Most plans drew considerable opposition, attacked on the one hand as inadequate and on the other as radical. Forced by economic and political realities to confront the issue, national politicians trod this ground carefully.1

Like their counterparts across the nation, New York farmers struggled during the 1920s. The 1928 state Democratic platform called for a major reevaluation of farm-related tax issues, reflecting a widely held belief that agrarian regions were paying more than their fair share of state and local real estate taxes. But as Roosevelt arrived in Albany, his problems were different -- and less intractable -- than those facing Washington policymakers. While Midwest farm states struggled with overproduction, many of New York's farms were only marginally productive. In fact, one of the state's most pressing agricultural dilemmas was a continuing exodus from the land; squeezed between low commodity prices and meager production, New Yorkers were abandoning their farms. Clearly, any farm solution for New York would have to account for the state's particular (and peculiar) conditions, making it a poor model for a national program.2

A 1929 study by the New York State Tax Commission, a permanent agency charged with economic research on state tax issues, described the problem succinctly. "The shrinkage of the New York farm area that has been going on almost without interruption since 1880 will and must continue," declared economist Ralph Theodore Compton with all the dispassionate conviction of a professional economist. "It has resulted from and will continue to result largely from the free play of natural forces."

Still, there was room for government assistance. Compton suggested, in particular, a reallocation of state tax burdens, with an eye toward reducing dependence on the real estate property taxes levied by local governments.3

Compton's suggestion was no surprise. Across the nation, real estate interests had been agitating for property tax cuts, many of them embellishing their arguments with rhetorical obeisance to the American farmer. "The welkin is made to ring with propaganda for the reduction of real estate taxes," complained one skeptical economist.4 Farm interests found a key ally in the White House.

"The tax burden upon real estate is wholly out of proportion to that upon other forms of property and income," declared President Herbert Hoover. "There is no farm relief more needed today than tax relief."5

New York politicians were keenly interested in reforming the property tax. Indeed, lawmakers had been debating the subject for decades. In 1916, the state's Joint Legislative Committee on Taxation had complained that real estate taxes were excessive. In 1922, the panel restated its concern that "real property in the State is being much overtaxed proportionately." Similar reports in 1925 and 1926 bolstered the case for reform. By 1929, Democrats and Republicans had agreed, at least in principle, to seek tax relief for the New York farmer. But they couldn't agree on how to work this fiscal legerdemain. Everyone insisted on cuts in unnecessary spending, but no one expected economy programs to pay for tax relief. Policymakers needed to find new revenue sources, reallocating the real estate burden to other bases of taxation, such as consumption or income.6

Real estate interests had a few suggestions for state lawmakers. The New York State Association of Real Estate Boards called for a gasoline tax, urging in high-minded prose that the issue "cease to be a political football and become one of pure justice and equity in the tax problems of the State." Who can argue with calls for "pure justice"? Well, just about anyone opposed to a gas tax, but that argument was still in the future. For the time being, the group also suggested that lawmakers use the state income tax to pay most of the state's bills.7

Prominent newspapers agreed. The New York Times urged lawmakers to join their colleagues in all but one other state by establishing a gas tax.8 Urgent needs for road improvement, combined with inequities in the existing system of property taxation, made tax reform imperative.9 The Wall Street Journal, while never eager to suggest any sort of tax, was quick to denounce the existing system of state property taxation. "There can be no real farm relief if the states tax agriculture to death," the editors declared.10

By the time that Roosevelt arrived in Albany, rural tax reform seemed all but inevitable. Indeed, the governor had campaigned on the issue the previous fall. Newly installed in the executive mansion, he set about drafting a bill, not least because he recognized the partisan utility of enacting a vigorous farm program while the national Republican party -- and President Hoover in particular -- struggled with broader agricultural problems.

In late 1928, just after his election victory, Roosevelt assembled a group of advisers to help put together a package of farm relief measures. Composed of 21 prominent farm and political leaders, the panel included 18 Republicans, according to Roosevelt's count, providing at least the appearance of nonpartisanship.11 To lead this advisory group, Roosevelt tapped Henry J. Morgenthau Jr., a close friend and Dutchess County neighbor. Like Roosevelt, Morgenthau was a genuine -- if genteel -- farmer. Unlike the governor-elect, however, he had real experience in agricultural policy. The son of a rich New York City developer and Democratic political activist, Morgenthau had foresworn the world of business, instead pursuing an avid interest in farming. He operated a small but notably profitable farm in the Hudson River Valley, and achieved some modest renown as publisher of the American Agriculturalist, a leading farm journal. During Roosevelt's campaign for the governorship, Morgenthau had successfully courted the farm vote, helping drum up Democratic support in the state's traditionally Republican rural regions.12

Morgenthau's appointment to head the agriculture panel was the first step on a long official road he would walk with Roosevelt. Over the next 15 years, his ministerial portfolio would shift from agriculture to public finance. As Secretary of the Treasury for virtually all of Roosevelt's presidency, he would preside over a watershed change in American taxation. For the time being, however, his efforts were confined to New York State, and his first run at tax policymaking was cast in terms of farm relief.

Soon after his inauguration, Roosevelt reconstituted his farm panel as the Agricultural Advisory Commission. During his first week in office, he asked the commission to develop a reform program. "What can the State of New York do," he asked Morgenthau, "to aid agriculture, give farmers a square deal and help make the farm dollar go as far as the dollar of the city man?"13

It was a rhetorical question, since Morgenthau's commission had already presented the governor with a set of proposals. The commission's program, moreover, had already won a stamp of approval from prominent farm leaders, giving the governor a leg up in his looming battle with the Republican-controlled Legislature.14

Republicans controlled both houses of the New York State Legislature, and they were loath to concede the farm issue to Roosevelt. Much of their most loyal support came from rural regions, and they could ill afford to grant Roosevelt the initiative on this pivotal issue. Yet Republicans were committed to the same sort of rural tax relief as that championed by the governor, and they reluctantly pledged at least limited cooperation. First, however, they appointed their own farm commission, with an eye toward stealing the governor's thunder.15

Roosevelt's panel was quick off the mark, releasing its public report early in the legislative session. Chief among its recommendations, which the governor warmly embraced, was a plan to reallocate the state's overall tax burden, reducing the role of county property taxes and replacing the revenue with a new state gasoline tax. Roosevelt championed the shift as a blow for tax fairness, and his arguments revealed a distinctive understanding of what it meant for a tax to be "fair."16

Under existing law, New York counties had been required to pay 35 percent of the cost of state highway construction, amounting to $9 million annually in 1929. Counties had raised the money almost exclusively through a property tax that was manageable for well-to-do counties with their higher real estate prices and consequently larger tax bases. Poor, largely rural counties, on the other hand, faced a much harder task, because they had to raise a similar amount of revenue from a much smaller tax base. Poor counties had been forced to hike tax rates dramatically in order to raise the required highway contribution, making for substantial variation in tax burdens.

State Tax Commissioner Mark Graves, a member of Roosevelt's farm panel, outlined the situation for the Legislature's farm commission in convincing terms. "A farmer owning a ten thousand dollar farm in Erie County, for example, could pay $5.70 once and would have completed his payment of the cost for the state highway system," Graves explained. "Whereas, if he owned the same farm in Yates County, it would cost him $464.50."17

To remedy this situation, the governor's Agricultural Advisory Commission suggested that the state pay all highway construction costs, thereby relieving poor counties of this heavy burden. To keep budgets in balance, the state would pay for the shift by imposing a new gas tax of 2 cents per gallon. At least 40 percent of the resulting revenue, estimated at $20 million to $22 million annually, would be used for state road construction. The remainder would be distributed to the counties to help pay for a system of secondary roads. New York City was specifically allotted 5 percent of the total revenue.18

Experts on the permanent State Tax Commission supported the plan. "The striking thing about New York highway finance is the large burden which was placed upon real estate before the gasoline tax was adopted," an economist for the panel wrote in 1929. "In 1927 only 15.8% of the total revenue for streets and highways came from owners and operators of motor vehicles, while 82 percent came chiefly from the owners of real estate in the form of taxes and special assessments." Imposing a gas tax would more directly associate the road-building burden with those motorists who benefited from the highway system.19

Roosevelt embraced the tax proposal, making it a centerpiece of his farm relief package. Styling himself a farmer, he called on lawmakers to enact a "square deal" for his rural colleagues.20

Roosevelt stressed the economic integration of city and country. "I am not so sure that those who live in towns and cities realize entirely how much the prosperity of the farmer directly affects their own prosperity," he told listeners to his radio address on farm relief. Or as he pointed out on another occasion: "We are all in the same boat, and if we put too large a burden on the rural sections, the cities must and will inevitably feel the reaction just as too heavy a burden on the cities will in the long run retard the progress and prosperity of the farms." What was good for farmers, in other words, was also good for New York. Farm reform was everyone's business.21

Roosevelt was a well-known champion of the gasoline tax; he had been tilling the soil for this levy since at least 1927, when he urged it on then-Gov. Al Smith (D). After his election, Roosevelt encouraged Tax Commissioner Mark Graves to stump the state on behalf of the new tax.

Graves spared no rhetorical excess, echoing the governor's promise that the bill would benefit almost everyone. "It is not a purely farm tax relief measure," he assured one audience. "It will benefit directly every real property taxpayer whether he be a farmer, home owner, merchant, manufacturer or public utility."22

Indeed it would. Taxes are notoriously blunt instruments of public policy. Used to raise money, they can often be designed to do the job efficiently. But when employed in the service of larger, nonrevenue goals, they can be unwieldy. Incentives and benefits are difficult to target and easy to co-opt. Even the best-intentioned tax reform can be manipulated for the personal gain of unintended beneficiaries. Roosevelt's property tax reform, while designed to aid farmers, was certain to be a windfall for every property owner in the state.

Roosevelt spoke approvingly of the gas tax, having "seen its excellent results in the south." In fact, the tax was popular almost everywhere; by 1929, every state but New York had one. Roosevelt described the tax as both fair and efficient, insisting that it was best understood as a user fee. In general, user fees were simply taxes dedicated to a specific purpose. This sort of earmarking was politically crucial, for it represented an attempt to match costs with benefits. When operating as planned, a user fee would be paid by those receiving the benefit of associated services.23

Such would be the case for New York's gas tax, Roosevelt argued. "One of the outstanding features of the proposed tax on gasoline," he explained, "lies in the fact that of all forms of taxation this is one of the most scientifically designed. I know of no other tax which so exactly lays the burden upon those who will derive direct benefit from the expenditure of the money thus raised."

User fees, according to Roosevelt, could actually work to the benefit of those who paid them. The governor insisted that car owners should welcome the new gas tax. "In the last analysis the gasoline tax costs the automobile owner little," he promised. "It is an investment by him in good roads. His automobile lasts longer, the cost of operation is less, the tires will travel many more miles and the repair bills on his automobile will be very considerably smaller."24

Roosevelt was so keen on connecting the new tax with its associated highway spending that he called for rebates to gas users who did not rely on public highways, including farm tractors, stationary gasoline engines, boats, and airplanes. Other states used similar rebates to ensure that gasoline taxes remained politically viable, as well as technically fair. The close connection between costs and benefits was central to Roosevelt's defense of the gas tax.25

The flip side of Roosevelt's new gas tax was the elimination of local property taxes used for road building. Abolishing the property tax was popular, and Roosevelt made the most of it. He disparaged property taxes as unfair to farmers, using an ability-to-pay argument to support his position. The tax was particularly inequitable during hard times, he said.

"The businessman pays a tax on his profits and on his income," Roosevelt explained. "The farmer pays a real-estate tax, but he pays it whether he is making any money or not." In other words, paying a static tax bill -- the size of which did not necessarily vary with economic conditions -- was difficult when income was scarce. Burdened with a relentless tax bill, farmers often found themselves without sufficient funds to pay.26

Experts agreed. "[T]the ownership of property is not necessarily evidence of tax-paying ability," pointed out the State Tax Commission. "Taxes must be paid out of income, and when they are levied upon property which does not provide its owner with income they must be paid from some other source." Because New York farmers were struggling in the face of both economic depression and reduced agricultural output, they were hard pressed to pay their property tax bills. The result was an inexorable pressure to abandon farming and the property ownership that came with it.27

By the late 1920s, property taxes were under broad assault -- and not just by farmers and other landowners. Public finance economists were unhappy with the levy, insisting that it was neither fair nor efficient. Originally, the tax had been levied on all forms of property. But personal property -- legally defined as all kinds of property other than real estate28 -- had proven difficult to assess and tax; evasion flourished as people found ways to conceal their ownership of nonreal property. As a result, economists grew increasingly disenchanted with the tax. It had once enjoyed a reputation for fairness. Used as a measure of wealth, property taxes held out the promise of progressivity, falling most heavily on those with the most property. But economic modernization began to undermine this case for property taxation. New forms of wealth, including financial investment vehicles, tended to escape the property tax.

In 1890, the economic case against the property tax took a quantum leap forward when economist Edwin Seligman of Columbia University published a landmark attack on "the worst tax known in the civilized world." The levy, he insisted, was devoid of practical or theoretical merit.


    It puts a premium on dishonesty and debauches the public conscience. It reduces deception to a system and makes a science of knavery. It presses hardest on those least able to pay. It imposes double taxation on one man and grants entire immunity to the next. In short, the general property tax is so flagrantly inequitable that its retention can be explained only through ignorance or inertia. It is the cause of such crying injustice that its abolition must become the battle cry of every statesman and reformer.29

Seligman was no rabble-rouser, his inflammatory rhetoric notwithstanding. Indeed, his choice of words reflected the disrepute into which property taxes had already fallen. The property tax was becoming an object of widespread scorn.

Lawmakers responded by scaling back their expectations for the tax. Gradually, lawmakers in states across the nation carved out one exception after another, exempting various sorts of property when they proved difficult to assess. Eventually, these changes left the property tax focused overwhelmingly on real estate; while some states persisted in taxing personalty, especially automobiles, the vast majority of property tax revenue came from land and buildings.30

While administratively necessary, the narrowing of the property tax base prompted critics to complain that it now burdened certain types of wealth while letting others escape completely. It seemed a difficult, almost insoluble problem. By the 1930s, many experts believed that the property tax -- in any form -- was overdue for retirement.31

The gas tax seemed a reasonable replacement for the property tax, especially in New York. Paul Studensky, an economist at New York University, endorsed the levy, pointing out that gasoline taxes had proven popular in other states, where the connection between the tax and its benefits was obvious to voters. "It is popular because it is used for a popular purpose," he contended. "It is paid in the final analysis by the users of the roads in proportion to the use."

Studensky stressed this connection, warning that popularity depended on the proper allocation of gas tax revenues. Shifting gas tax revenue to other uses would diminish popular support for the levy, which he described as a fee, rather than a tax.32

In a related vein, economist M. Slade Kendrick questioned whether gas taxes were actually regressive in their incidence. To the extent that revenue from the levy was used for road improvement, the tax would burden taxpayers lightly or not at all. Kendrick suggested that public highway improvements probably compensated drivers for the cost of the tax. In any case, these same benefits effectively mitigated the burden on drivers, preventing any shifting of the tax to consumers.33

In Albany, Roosevelt embraced the user fee argument as he stumped for his farm relief plan. Using a property tax to pay for highway construction made for a mismatch in the source and expenditure of revenue, he said. It taxed property owners for the sake of road users. Better, he suggested, to levy a tax on gasoline, the benefits of which would accrue directly to the affected taxpayers.

"Associations of automobilists as well as individual car owners have, I think, come to realize the justness and real advantages to themselves from this tax," Roosevelt asserted. "I am convinced that this gasoline tax is proper, sound, and fair."34

Indeed, the New York Automobile Club chose not to oppose the gas tax. The group was hardly an outspoken proponent of the levy, but it held its fire. Spokespersons insisted that any new gas tax should be bundled with reductions in license and registration fees. On net, they maintained, the burden on car owners should remain unchanged.35

Occasionally, Roosevelt strayed from the user fee argument. Seeking to broaden support for the levy, he insisted that its benefits would be widely distributed. "The proposed gasoline tax is not rightly called a farm relief measure," he explained, "because it will benefit the great majority of owners of real property. It really should be termed a fair tax measure." Good roads benefited everyone, in other words, not just the property owners with adjacent land.36

This sort of "general welfare" argument undermined the "user fee" rationale. If the benefits of new roads were so widely diffused, then why should only road users pay for them? Moreover, by noting the benefits accruing to property owners, Roosevelt seemed to undermine his case for relieving the property tax burden in the first place. In shifting the tax burden to road users, legislators might be undertaxing the property owners who stood to benefit from new roads.

Opinion on the gas tax followed predictable lines. Farm associations endorsed the plan, as did real estate groups such as the State Association of Real Estate Boards; both stood to benefit from reductions in the real estate levy.37 Conversely, auto groups, including the Motor Truck Association of America and the Automobile Merchants Association of New York, opposed the gas tax. The latter was especially vocal, leading the campaign against the tax. It was unnecessary, the group insisted, and its revenue promised to exceed legitimate highway costs.

"The history of the gasoline tax is that it breeds extravagance"; states with a gas tax had a penchant for raising it, using revenue to fund general expenses, not just road building, said George Stowe, chair of the Automobile Merchants Association of New York. He added that automobile and truck owners were already saddled with substantial registration and license fees.38

Leading newspapers supported the tax. Almost everyone agreed that the rural tax burden was too high, and the gas tax promised to raise substitute revenue with a minimum of administrative difficulty. The New York Times endorsed the levy as "eminently fair." The tax was levied on a broad base, and it would be relatively easy to collect. More important, it promised to raise considerable revenue. The newspaper warned, however, that lawmakers should be careful with such a productive levy. Revenue should be used for road building and maintenance, not general government functions. "Any tendency to place an unreasonably heavy burden on the motorist is likely to end in revolt."39

The Wall Street Journal offered a similar opinion, predicting that a "reasonable gasoline tax, strictly devoted to the one purpose of highway improvement, would be cheerfully met by motorists." But, again, the paper warned against extravagance. Other states had fallen prey to temptation, using gas tax revenue for a wide variety of unrelated spending needs. New York must stand firm against such fiscal irresponsibility, the editors warned, lest they give the lie to user fee arguments.40

After flirting with alternatives, Republicans in the Legislature eventually agreed to the gas tax. In fact, this part of Roosevelt's farm plan attracted no serious opposition, despite its regressive quality. Cast as part of the popular farm relief package, and justified as a user fee, the tax proved a political winner.41

On April 8, Roosevelt signed a budget bill into law, levying a 2-cent tax on every gallon of gas sold after May 1. Observers expected it to raise $26 million in new revenue, which the state would use to pay for highway costs. Localities were relieved of their responsibility to pay for road costs, and landowners around the state breathed a sigh of relief.42


FOOTNOTES

1 For a useful summary of farm problems during the 1920s, as well as later New Deal efforts to resolve them, see Anthony J. Badger, The New Deal: The Depression Years, 1933-1940 (London: Macmillan, 1989), pp. 14-18, 147-189. See also Arthur M. Schlesinger, The Crisis of the Old Order, 1919-1933 (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1958), pp. 104-110; Richard S. Kirkendall, "The New Deal and Agriculture," in John Braeman, Robert Bremner, and David Brody (eds.), The New Deal: Vol. 1 The National Level (Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1975), pp. 83-109.

2 Frank Freidel, Franklin D. Roosevelt: The Triumph (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1956), pp. 35-7.

3 Ralph Theodore Compton, Fiscal Problems of Rural Decline, Special Report of the State Tax Commission, No. 2 (Albany: J.B. Lyon Co., 1929), pp. 18-19.

4 Robert Murray Haig, "Taking the Burden From Real Estate," 18(2) Bulletin of the National Tax Association 35 (November 1932).

5 Herbert Hoover, The State Papers and Other Public Writings of Herbert Hoover, William Starr Myers, ed., vol. 2 (New York: Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1934), pp. 169-175.

6 For summaries of the various committee recommendations, see State of New York, New York State Commission for the Revision of the Tax Laws, Preliminary Report, submitted February 15, 1931 (Albany: J.B. Lyon Co., 1931), pp. 19-21.

7 "State Tax Changes Urged by Realtors," The New York Times, Feb. 5, 1928, p. 164.

8 Only Illinois and New York lacked gasoline taxes at the start of 1929, and Illinois beat New York to the legislative punch in the early spring, enacting its own levy.

9 "Roads, Good and Bad," The New York Times (Sept. 14, 1928): 20. See also "State Roads Built by Tax on Gasoline," The New York Times, Oct. 6, 1928, p. 33.

10 "Striking at the Root," The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 20, 1928, p. 1.

11 For a roster of the panel's membership, see "Farm Experts Offer Plan to Roosevelt on Rural Tax Relief," The New York Times, Nov. 25, 1928, p. 1.

12 Public Papers of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Forty- Eighth Governor of the State of New York, 1929 (Albany: J.B. Lyon Co., 1930) (hereafter PPGov 1929), p. 689; John Morton Blum, From the Morgenthau Diaries: Years of Crisis, 1928-1938 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1959), pp. 12-16; Bernard Bellush, Franklin D. Roosevelt as Governor of New York (New York: Columbia University Press, 1955), p. 78. On Roosevelt's early relationship with Morgenthau, as well as the latter's background, see Blum, pp. 1-34.

13 Quoted in Bellush, note 12 supra at 79.

14 "Farm Experts Offer Plan to Roosevelt on Rural Tax Relief," The New York Times, Nov. 25, 1928, p. 1; Freidel, note 2 supra at 37-38.

15 "State Republicans Plan Land Tax Cuts," The New York Times, Jan. 1, 1929, p. 1.

16 "Gasoline Tax Urged in State Farm Aid," The New York Times, Jan. 17, 1929, p. 1.

17 Bellush, note 12 supra at 81. See also Compton, note 3 supra at 179.

18 PPGov 1929, 477; The New York Times, Jan. 17, 1929; The New York Times, Jan. 3, 1929; Bellush, note 12 supra at 80-81; Freidel, note 2 supra at 37-38; Blum, note 12 supra at 16; Finla G. Crawford, "The Legislative Session of 1929 in New York State," 23(4) American Political Science Review (Nov. 1929), p. 917.

19 Compton, note 3 supra at 79.

20 "Roosevelt Urges Farm 'Square Deal,'" The New York Times, Feb. 16, 1929, p. 1.

21 PPGov 1929, p. 688; The New York Times, Feb. 1, 1929; The New York Times, Feb. 2, 1929; Roosevelt quoted in Freidel, note 2 supra at 7, 39; Mark Hugh Leff, The Limits of Symbolic Reform: The New Deal and Taxation, 1933-1939 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), pp. 54- 55.

22 "Tax Plan of Gov. Roosevelt," The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 21, 1929, p. 3. Graves had already endorsed the gas tax the previous year. See "Tells Farm Group Tax Cut is Distant," The New York Times, Nov. 9, 1928, p. 50; Freidel, note 2 supra at 8-39; The New York Times, Mar. 10, 1929.

23 For a contemporary discussion of user fees, see Pearl Richardson, "User Charges, Federal," in The Encyclopedia of Taxation and Tax Policy (Washington: Urban Institute Press, 1999), p. 419.

24 PPGov 1929, pp. 495-496, 140-141.

25 PPGov 1929, pp. 495-496, 140-141; The New York Times, Feb. 10, 1929.

26 Freidel, note 2 supra at 39.

27 Compton, note 3 supra at 21.

28 Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law (1996), available from http://dictionary.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/results.pl?co=www.findlaw.com&topic=cd/cdb5d7d5f7e5fe2005e9bb2f1b260a5caccessed September 21, 2003.

29 Edwin R. A. Seligman, "The General Property Tax," 5(1) Political Science Quarterly 62 (March 1890).

30 State of New York, Report of the New York State Commission for the Revision of the Tax Laws (Albany: J.B. Lyon Co., 1932), p. 66.

31 See, e.g., the comments of Robert Murray Haig in State of New York, Report of the New York State Commission for the Revision of the Tax Laws, p. 88.

32 "Asserts Gasoline Tax is Generally Popular," The New York Times, Mar. 3, 1929, p. 20. On the spread of the gas tax among the states, see "Gas Tax Has Covered Country in Ten Years," The New York Times, Mar. 10, 1929, p. 162.

33 M. Slade Kendrick, "Public Expenditure; a Neglected Consideration in Tax Incidence Theory," 20(2) American Economic Review, 226-230 (June 1930).

34 Freidel, note 3 supra at 9; The New York Times, Feb. 16, 1929.

35 "For 3-Cent Gasoline Tax," The New York Times, Feb. 28, 1929, p. 10.

36 The New York Times, Feb. 16, 1929.

37 See, e.g., "Dairymen Favor Gasoline Tax," The New York Times, Dec. 13, 1928, p. 7; "Real Estate Boards Approve Gasoline Tax," The New York Times, Feb. 9, 1929, p. 31.

38 "To Oppose Gasoline Tax," The New York Times, Dec. 13, 1928, p. 23; "Auto Men Protest Gasoline Tax Plan," The New York Times, Mar. 6, 1929, p. 22; "Gives Its Reasons for Opposing the Gas Tax," The New York Times, Mar. 17, 1929, p. 18; "Auto Dealers to Act on Gas Tax Monday," The New York Times, Mar. 30, 1929, p. 2; "Gasoline Tax Unfair, Auto Men Declare," The New York Times, Mar. 23, 1929, p. 7.

Taxi drivers also opposed the tax. "Plans Taxicab Parade to Albany as Protest," The New York Times, Mar. 11, 1929, p. 11; "Taxi Men Oppose a Gasoline Tax," The New York Times, Mar. 13, 1929, p. 4.

39 "The New State Tax," The New York Times, Apr. 10, 1929, p. 22.

40 "Painless Taxation," The Wall Street Journal, Mar. 29, 1929, p. 1.

41 PPGov 1929, p. 689; Freidel, note 3 supra at 8; Bellush, note 12 supra at 83; The New York Times, Mar. 29, 1929.

For an overview of the gas tax in operation, see M. Slade Kendrick, "The Collection of Taxes by the State Government and the Division of These Revenues With Units of Local Government, With Emphasis on New York," 39(1) Journal of Political Economy, 25-41 (February 1931).

42 "Governor Approves State Gasoline Tax and Farm Aid Bills," The New York Times, Apr. 9, 1929, p. 1.


END OF FOOTNOTES