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Bill Addresses Tribal Taxes

October 18, 1999

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A U.S. House of Representatives committee last week held hearings on a bill that would penalize Native American tribes that do not collect and pay taxes, especially gasoline and diesel taxes, on goods sold on tribal lands.

Rep. Ernest Istook, R-OK, told the House Committee on Resources that taxpayers are carrying an extra burden to pay for roads, schools and public safety. Istook is a co-sponsor of H.R. 1814, which was introduced in May.
"Despite what some Indian tribes say, this is not a matter of sovereign immunity nor of treaty rights," Istook said. "The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that those are phony claims."
Michael Holahan, CEO of the North American Truckstop Network, testified at the hearing on behalf of NATSO, the association of America's travel plaza and truckstop industry. "Is it fair for truck drivers to fuel at a Native American business located right off of the Interstate, then damage the state's roads without paying their fair share?" he asked.
Holahan testified that a NATSO member outside Albuquerque has lost approximately 3,000 to 5,000 gallons of diesel sales a day since a tribe 16 miles from his facility added diesel pumps to its convenience store and casino complex, right off I-40. The tribe sells fuel, on average, 15 cents per gallon below his cost to acquire the product.

The bill would give states leverage to remove lands from "Indian country" status if businesses on the land fail to obey tax laws. It also gives priority when Indian tribes are competing for federal grants to those tribes that have an agreement with the state to pay the appropriate taxes.

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