Tribes' "Special Privileges" Under Attack In Oklahoma

"It is simply unfair..."  Rep. David Dank

Assailing what he calls “special privileges that give (Native Americans) unique advantages” and declaring “It’s time for our Legislature to restore sanity to Oklahoma’s dealings with the Tribes”, Oklahoma state Representative David Dank has introduced three bills before the state Congress: 1) a constitutional amendment to give private businesses the same right to make corporate campaign contributions as Tribes; 2) a second amendment requiring compacts between Tribes and state government be ratified by the state Legislature; and 3) a bill giving private businesses located close to competing Tribal stores the same sales tax exemptions as the Native-owned businesses. Dank outlines his plan and purpose in an article in this week’s Oklahoman newspaper.

Dank’s reasoning is based on his view that:

Tribes collect no sales taxes on items sold from their grocery and convenience stores, or other Tribal businesses. They collect about half of normal tobacco taxes from Indian smoke shop sales. Tribal businesses pay no property taxes, the state receives little or nothing from Tribal auto tags, and Tribes, unlike private businesses, are free to make millions in corporate campaign contributions.

Meanwhile, the Tribes reap millions from a state-issued monopoly on casino gambling in Oklahoma because of a 15-year compact that cannot be altered.

These are tax exemptions and breaks that siphon tens of millions of dollars each year from local school districts, city and county governments and our state treasury. Non-Tribal citizens and businesses are being taxed to make up those losses. In some cases, non-Tribal businesses are being driven into bankruptcy by the unfair competition made possible by these special privileges.

Dank’s article neglects to mention some other ways in which Native American Tribes are “special”. Unlike every other municipality in the country, and despite being recognized by the US government as sovereign, Tribal governments are not allowed to levy property taxes on the Tribe’s own land. This state of affairs deprives Tribes of untold millions in revenues each year that other municipalities use for roads, police, and other civic services. For Tribes fortunate enough to be located near population centers or interstate highways, gaming revenue is but a partial substitute for the lack of taxing authority, as illustrated by the endemic poverty and substandard infrastructure on reservations.

The private sector of Oklahoma’s economy also reflects a “special” place for Native Americans. As he laments the Tribes’ “special financial privileges” that “cost state and local governments millions and damages competing private businesses”, Dank omits the fact that Native American and Alaska Native householders in Oklahoma had a median income 18.1 percent less than the median level for all households, and an overall decline in median income of 24.2 percent since the year 2000 – the biggest drop of any demographic group in the state. Meanwhile, the Caucasian demographic in Oklahoma has realized a 42.8 percent increase in household income level since the year 2005.

Special indeed.

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Comments (5) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
rhililete - April 24, 2009 4:31 AM

emm... amazing ))

matthew - November 8, 2009 5:42 AM

I wish our senators would be educated and stop colonizing the rest of this country and the world with their G W Bush like idiotic comments

Ken - August 12, 2010 10:01 AM

Two words for people who think its unfair...TRIBAL SOVEREIGNTY.

mrmnikon - November 7, 2010 9:46 AM

The reason for the delcine in income is simple. With all the handouts the tribal members are given, there is no reason to have any ambition to leave the reservation and succeed. I work with a couple of native Americans who intentionally do not live on 'the res' because it's depressing. Kids dropping out of school, doing drugs, etc... because there's no reason for them to put any effort into life. It's all given to them. Time for a change!

Samantha - February 23, 2011 1:34 PM

Hmmm...sounds like some jealousy if u ask me. I have an Indian card and use the health care and tags and I even lived n their apartments for 5 years. Without them I don't know what I would do. Not all Indians live on reservations...infact most don't. They r the reason y I had school supplies every year. There would b a lot of people not getting the help they need. Grouping them 2gether is as bad as sayin its ur ancestors fault 4 stealing our land and killing and torturing our ancestors. I am not even a quarter Indian and still get all the benefits so it does help A LOT of people!---I know how 2 spell are and you and all those words I'm on a phone so I'm writing like I would text.

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