ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF MISSOURI
White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Van Devanter, Pitney, McReynolds, Brandeis, Clarke
MR. JUSTICE CLARKE delivered the opinion of the court.
The plaintiff in error, hereinafter referred to as the Bridge Electric Company, a corporation organized under Missouri law, was the owner in 1906 of 865-1000ths of a mile of electric railway, constructed upon and extending from the easterly to the westerly end of the Eads Bridge over the Mississippi River at St. Louis. In that year the State Board of Equalization of Missouri valued the portion of this railroad which was within that State at $186,019, and levied a tax upon it for state and local purposes, which the plaintiff in error refused to pay, and thereupon this suit was instituted to recover the amount of the tax.
The case was tried on an agreed statement of facts and the State prevailed in all the state courts. Only one of the several defenses relied upon in the answer has been argued in this court, viz., that the tax is invalid because, if allowed, it would constitute a direct and unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce.
The state statute provided that in valuing railroads for taxation the State Board of Equalization should determine the total value of the entire property in the State, tangible
and intangible, of each company, and that from this total it should deduct the value of all its tangible property and then "enter the remainder upon the assessment list . . . under the head of 'all other property.'" Laws of Missouri, 1901, p. 232, § 2.
Complying with this statute the Board of Equalization valued all of the rolling stock, poles, wires and cash of the Bridge Electric Company at $32,630 per mile; the roadbed and superstructure at $5,000 per mile and "all other property" at $500,000 per mile, making a total value per mile of $537,630.
There were .346 of a mile of the track in the State of Missouri and this proportion of the total value per mile, amounting to $186,019 (of which $173,000 was included under the item "all other property"), was the amount on which the disputed tax was levied.
The unit rule thus adopted by the Board of Equalization has long been a familiar method, often approved by this court, for valuing interstate railroad properties. Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Ry. Co. v. Backus, 154 U.S. 439, 445; St. Louis Southwestern Ry. Co. v. Arkansas, 235 U.S. 350; Branson v. Bush, 251 U.S. 182.
It is not contended that this valuation is unreasonable in amount, but only that the property of the company, which was valued as "all other property," consisted solely of its franchise to conduct interstate passenger traffic over the interstate bridge and that therefore the tax, so far as levied on the valuation placed on that property, is a direct tax and burden on ...