Memorandum of Disapproval of Bill for the Construction of a Bridge Across the St. Lawrence River.
I HAVE withheld my approval from H.R. 3332, a bill entitled "An Act creating the Saint Lawrence Bridge Commission and authorizing said Commission and its successors to construct, maintain, and operate a bridge across the Saint Lawrence River at or near Ogdensburg, New York."
A very similar bill was passed during the 73rd Congress and approved June 14, 1933 (48 Stat. 141), which created the Saint Lawrence Bridge Commission with authority to construct, maintain, and operate a bridge across the Saint Lawrence River at or near Ogdensburg. Section 4 of that Act contained, among other provisions, the following:
"The bridge constructed under the authority of this Act shall be deemed to be an instrumentality for international commerce authorized by the Government of the United States, and said bridge and ferry or ferries and the bonds issued in connection therewith and the income derived therefrom shall be exempt from all Federal, State, municipal, and local taxation."
The bridge has not been constructed under the authority granted by said Act, but during the years subsequent to 1933 acts were passed by the Congress and approved to extend the times for commencing and completing its construction, the last such act having been approved October 16, 1945. In the meantime, however, the policy was adopted by the Executive and Legislative Branches of the Government that legislation of this nature should contain no provision exempting the facilities constructed pursuant thereto or the obligations created to meet the cost thereof or the revenues derived therefrom from taxation. It was recognized that the matter of exempting such facilities and obligations created to defray the cost of their construction from State taxation should be a matter for determination by the States in which the facilities might be located, and not by the Federal Government. It was further recognized that the Federal Government should not provide exemption from Federal taxes to facilities of this class and to income derived from their operation and from obligations issued and outstanding to cover the cost of constructing such facilities any more than it should provide such exemption to other classes of facilities. Pursuant to this policy, a number of bills enacted by the Congress with tax exemption provisions therein were vetoed by the President, and when in 1940 a bill (H.R. 9411) was enacted and approved June 8, 1940 (54 Stat. 259), to further extend the times for commencing and completing the proposed bridge at Ogdensburg it provided for repeal of the above quoted provision from section 4 of the Act of June 14, 1933, and inserted in lieu thereof the following:
"The bridge hereby authorized or the income therefrom shall be subject to Federal, State, municipal, or local taxation only to the extent that a like structure or the income therefrom owned and operated by public authority or public agency of the State of New York shall be subject to taxation. The bonds or obligations of the Commission, from time to time outstanding, and the income derived therefrom shall be subject to taxation in the hands of the holders thereof."
The effect of the bill now before me, except for certain changes to which no objection is made, would be to reenact as new legislation the Act as originally approved June 14, 1933, including the objectionable tax exemption provision. I, therefore, do not feel that I can give it my approval. However, I am not otherwise opposed to legislation to authorize the construction of a bridge across the Saint Lawrence River at Ogdensburg.
HARRY S. TRUMAN
Harry S Truman, Memorandum of Disapproval of Bill for the Construction of a Bridge Across the St. Lawrence River. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232188