Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Native American Caucus reviews taxation and gaming in first meeting

Native American Caucus reviews taxation and gaming in first meeting
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Members of the Native American Caucus recently met for the first time this year and discussed taxation and gaming in Arizona. The meeting was well attended.
“It is refreshing to see an increase in the number of legislators who attended the first meeting of the Native American Caucus.  The caucus continues to serve as a forum to educate legislators concerning Indian Nations, what is happening to Indian people in Indian Nations, and how the state can help,” Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 7), said.

Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson (District 9), agreed.

“The Native American Caucus is essential to informing our colleagues in the Legislature about current issues and historical concerns important to the 22 Native American Tribes and Nations in Arizona.  The sales tax and gaming subjects were very educational to many legislators in attendance,” she said.

Rep. Sally Ann Gonzales, D-Tucson (District 3), added that Native Americans contribute significantly to the state.

“The first Native American Caucus meeting of the session was a total success. One of the caucus’ most important roles is to engage our colleagues here at the Capitol on the issues facing the indigenous peoples of Arizona and educate them on the contributions these indigenous people make to the state. We have many new members this session, and it is important for them to know how state laws affect each and every Tribe or Nation,” Gonzales said.

At the meeting, Valerie Spicer, executive director of the Arizona Indian Gaming Association, told the caucus that tribal gaming has created more than 15,000 jobs and has an economic impact of more than a billion dollars since 2002.

Elaine Smith, a senior economist for the Arizona Department of Revenue, also presented at the meeting. She shared information on the collection and distribution of sales tax in the state. In 2014, Indian Nations collected about $45.6 million in sales tax revenues. This money goes to the state’s general fund but Indian Nations only received about $2.6 million of general fund support from the state for Dine College and Navajo Technical College.

“Today’s discussion of the revenues generated on Indian Nations hopefully opened the eyes of the legislators that Indian people do pay state taxes yet very, very little of the revenue is returned to Indian Nations.  I am hopeful that eventually the legislators will correct this inequity, an inequity that perpetuates colonialism concerning Indian people,” Hale said.

Rep. Jennifer D. Benally, D-Tuba City (District 7), said she hopes legislators continue to attend the caucus’ meetings.

“This was a productive meeting. I hope we keep this dialogue up and that people continue to ask questions about what is going on in Native American Nations in Arizona,” Benally said.


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