Memorandum of Disapproval of Bill Relating to a Claim of the Board of County Commissioners of Sedgwick County, Kansas.
I AM withholding approval of H.R. 7854 "To confer jurisdiction on the Court of Claims to hear, determine, and render judgment upon a certain claim of the Board of County Commissioners of Sedgwick County, Kansas."
The bill confers jurisdiction upon the Court of Claims to hear, determine, and render judgment upon the claim of the Board of County Commissioners of Sedgwick County, Kansas, against the Government of the United States on account of delinquent real-estate taxes for the tax years 1944, 1945, 1946 and 1947 (together with penalties, interest, and charges) assessed and levied against three tracts of land in Sedgwick County, constituting the aircraft factory and grounds owned in such years by the Defense Plant Corporation and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and which were leased to the Boeing Airplane Company, and transferred on or about February 25, 1948 to the United States. The measure also provides that the court shall determine the amount of taxes, penalties, interest, and charges, and render judgment in favor of the Board of County Commissioners against the United States for the amount of any of such items which the court may find and adjudge to have been lawfully assessed against the real estate and remaining due and unpaid.
The record shows that title to certain lands and buildings in Sedgwick County, Kansas, was vested during those years in the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. The Corporation leased these lands to the Boeing Airplane Company for the manufacture of aircraft under the contract with the Air Force. Under the provisions of the lease agreement, Boeing was responsible for any taxes validly assessed and the United States was in turn required to reimburse Boeing under a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract. The County taxing authorities levied taxes upon the real estate in question for each of the years 1944, 1945, 1946, and 1947, which taxes have not been paid. On February 25, 1948, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation conveyed the property to the United States. Thereafter, the County Commissioners instituted an action in the District Court of Sedgwick County to foreclose a lien for taxes on the property. The action was dismissed by the court on the ground that it was a suit against the United States and the United States had not consented to be sued.
I find objectionable those provisions in the bill which authorize the court to render judgment in favor of the County and against the United States for the amount of any penalties, interest, and charges, in connection with the taxes levied by the Board of County Commissioners. To impose a liability upon the Federal Government for such penalties, interest, and charges is inconsistent with the sound and long established doctrines that claims against the United States do not bear interest and that the Federal Government is not liable for penalties. The enactment of legislation in derogation of these firmly established principles would, in my opinion, create a most undesirable precedent. Moreover, such provisions would discriminate against all other claimants. While I would not object to a measure which would merely permit Sedgwick County to secure a judicial determination in the Court of Claims of the question as to whether the tax assessed against the property involved was lawful, without creating any new cause of action, I cannot approve a measure which would permit recovery of penalties and interest against the
HARRY S. TRUMAN
Harry S Truman, Memorandum of Disapproval of Bill Relating to a Claim of the Board of County Commissioners of Sedgwick County, Kansas. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230290