No. 21900 -- In re: The Petition of Maple Meadow Mining Company
for Relief From Real Property Assessment for the
Tax Year 1992
Neely, J., dissenting:
The majority opinion summarizes the issue in this case as
In this case, Maple Meadow begins by contending that the 1992 assessment of its natural resources property is in violation of W. Va. Code, 11-1C-7(d)  and the Raleigh County valuation plan. Maple Meadow asserts that this section gives the county assessor the option of either placing changes in property value on the property books at sixty percent of value or phasing in any increases in value as discovered as a result of the reappraisal of the three-year reappraisal period; further, if the county assessor chooses the phase-in option, the county assessor must also phase in any increases in the property that the tax commissioner is responsible for appraising in "like manner." Maple Meadow argues, that because the county assessor elected to use the phase-in option on all other real property within the county, the county assessor must also assess Maple Meadow's natural resources property in the same manner. Thus, Maple Meadow asks that the county assessor be required to follow the county's valuation plan in compliance with W. Va. Code, 11-1C-7(d)  so that Maple Meadow is treated the same as all other Raleigh County real property owners.
Maple Meadow is obviously right.
To the extent that there is authentic jurisprudential
content to the equal protection clause of U. S. Constitution,
amend. XIV (as opposed to result-oriented politics, which is what
we usually get in law) and its state counterparts, particularly W.
Va. Const., Art. 10, § 1, that content is the proposition that
minorities are best protected when majorities are prohibited from
singling them out for special, unfavorable legal treatment. In
this case, big non-voting mineral-owning corporations were singled
out for a good beating: to-wit, their assessments were raised
immediately while local voting residents had the three-year grace
period over which their assessments slowly rose. If ever there
were an isolated, insular minority, it has to be persons of
property who, at least theoretically, deserve as much
constitutional protection as blacks, women, persons with
disabilities, native Americans, Eskimos, and opponents of West
Virginia University football. Furthermore, W. Va. Const., Art. 10,
§ 1 says: ". . . taxation shall be equal and uniform throughout the
State, and all property, both real and personal, shall be taxed in
proportion to its value . . ." In re: U. S. Steel Corp., 165
W. Va. 373, 268 S.E.2d 128 (1980).
Maple Meadow and other mineral owners were singled out
because they have lots of money and no votes. Nonetheless, it is
entities like Maple Meadow that provide the jobs that are so scarce
in West Virginia and on which West Virginia depends. That,
unfortunately, is always the way it is with the rich-- they
actually do something useful-- which is why we have restrained ourselves from lining them up against the wall and mowing them down
with machine guns. Third World countries haven't completely
figured all of this out, which is why residents of Third World
countries frequently resort to eating one another faute de mieux.
Inconvenient as equal protection may be at times, it is a rubric under which golden-egg-laying geese are protected from wholesale slaughter. Therefore, I dissent.