Brief Fact Summary. Appellant alleges that the federal withholding of a small percentage of highway funds to states allowing public possession or purchase of alcohol by individuals under 21 years is unconstitutional.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Non-coercive financial incentives by Congress are a constitutional exercise of the taxing and spending power.
Issue. May Congress withhold funds from states that do not maintain a 21 year old drinking age?
Held. Yes. Appeals court ruling affirmed. A withholding of a small amount of funds is not a coercive measure and a proper exercise of taxing and spending power.
Dissent. Justices William Brennan and Sandra Day O’Connor both dissent on the unrelated ground of the Twenty-first Amendment, which relegates regulation of alcohol sales to the states.
Discussion. Congress may put “strings” on funds disbursed to States, so long as the conditions are explicitly stated.