SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski is asking the court to make a ruling in her lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Utah Inland Port Authority.
A motion for summary judgement filed Monday is the latest development in the lawsuit filed in March by the city, which argues that legislation passed by the state usurps the city’s land use and taxing authority and violates the Equal Protection Clause by disproportionately taxing Salt Lake City residents.
Now Biskupski is asking the 3rd District Court to make a decision in the case, on the grounds that the state has not disputed any of the material facts in the city’s lawsuit over the creation of the port. Located on the city’s west side, the port has been envisioned as a global distribution hub of train, truck and air connections to maximize manufacturing, imports and exports.
“What happened to Salt Lake City is wrong,” said Biskupski in a statement Monday. “The state’s actions threaten to deny city residents the power to control their own destiny and robs them of taxes which help pay for services like police, fire, parks and road repair.”
A bill passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor earlier this year created a “hub and spoke” model, allowing the port to expand outside of its Salt Lake City “hub.” The bill’s sponsors said it would let rural areas establish “satellite offices” so that smaller communities with exports could clear international customs without having to ship goods to Salt Lake City.
The city claims that this “hub and spoke” model creates an unconstitutional “two-tiered tax system.” For other Utah communities, using tax revenue for the inland port project is optional; “whereas Salt Lake City residents were forced to give up 100% of property tax increment, as well as a portion of (the) city’s sales tax for a period of up to 40 years,” a statement released by the city Monday argues.
“Not only has the state illegally usurped the constitutionally protected powers of our municipality, but it has authorized the treatment of Salt Lake City taxpayers as second-class citizens, denying us the same opportunities enjoyed by others in Utah,” Biskupski said.
The lawsuit also claims that state legislation violates the so-called “ripper clause,” a section of Utah’s Constitution aimed at keeping the state out of city matters.
The clause says the Legislature “shall not delegate to any special commission, private corporation or association, any power to make, supervise or interfere with any municipal improvement, money, property or effects, whether held in trust or otherwise, to levy taxes, to select a capitol site, or to perform any municipal functions.”
The state has two weeks to respond to Biskupski’s motion for summary judgement. A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 18, at which the court will also consider the city’s request for a preliminary injunction filed in June.
“Everything needs to come to a screeching halt until the courts can make a decision about our constitutional challenge,” Biskupski said at the time.