In Biggs v. Betlach instead of an issue of public or private agency we have the question of what’s a tax and what’s an assessment. The pro – con briefs are very instructive as relating to the HOA question of: Are HOA assessments like public taxes or like fees and assessments? If HOA assessments are clearly a tax, if public, then we have one more argument that HOAs function as public entities.
The case involves a group of AZ legislators seeking to have a federal Medicaid expansion bill declared unconstitutional, because the bill deals with tax increases and requires a 2/3 vote, which did not happen. (Why it was sent to the Governor is a guess, except they probably thought Governor Brewer would veto it, but she didn’t). Skipping the other issues in this case, I deal with what’s a tax and what’s an assessment as argued in the Goldwater filings.
Note the clear statement of what’s a tax and what’s an assessment. Goldwater cites several references (not provide here) in its brief presentation of the law regarding taxes:
“In Arizona, taxes are defined as levies that are mandatory and not calculated based on the service received, whereas fees are voluntary and related to the benefit received by the paying entity, and assessments are levied against property that is specially benefitted by the improvement they fund.”
For example, “[O]ne key difference between university tuition and the [Medicaid] tax – university tuition is a fee, not a tax, because it is collected in direct exchange for a service provided and benefit received – specifically, education.” Similarly, we have various license fees, registration fees, etc. that are paid for a service of personal benefit. To help make it clearer, although the term “property assessment” is used quite often, it does not refer to the valid property tax but to the monetary valuation of the property, which is used to determine the amount of tax. It is a tax.
Goldwater goes on to argue that the purpose of a law cannot trump and supersede the constitution, nor can the legislature interpret what is constitutional. The position that a law serves “To promote effective government administration and pragmatic problem solving” is viewed as “Defendant’s preferred ‘public policy’ cannot trump voter intent or supersede constitutional provisions.” Does that sound familiar? HOAs provide benefits and, implicitly, therefore the laws and Constitution can be ignored?
Particularly relevant to HOAs is the argument that,
“Constitutional restrictions on legislative authority cannot be waived by the legislature itself, especially in collusion with special interests who benefit from the unconstitutional act. . . . The legislature cannot delegate to another branch of government—least of all an unelected administrator—the quintessential legislative power: the power to tax.”
So, forgetting about under what laws HOAs are created, what say you about HOA assessments as taxes and hiding behind a corporation structure whose constitutionality is defended by the legislature and not the courts. In HOA-Land, while the names have been changed to protect the guilty, their functions are basically the same. The HOA assessment is a tax hiding behind a corporation shield.
 CV2013-011699, Maricopa County Superior Court, yet to be decided. Biggs is the Senate President with numerous legislators as co-plaintiffs. Betlach is an agency director. Prominent constitutional lawyers from The Goldwater Institute (for plaintiffs), the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, and The William E. Morris Institute for Justice (for defendants, the state) are involved,
 PLAINTIFFS’ REPLY IN SUPPORT OF MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; PLAINTIFFS’ COMBINED RESPONSE TO DEFENDANT’S AND INTERVENORS’ MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT.