HAUDENOSAUNEE RESPONSE TO STATE'S TAX PROPOSAL:
INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
In order to establish the basis for regulating and controlling business on their territories, some of our member nations have enacted their first written laws. Illustrative of these are the Onondaga Nation Business Rules and Regulations, and the Onondaga Nation Traders Laws. The nation's right to control and regulate business on our territories must be clearly recognized and supported by the state.
We look forward to more meetings with the Attorney General's office to work together towards establishing this control.
Our sovereignty was recognized in the late 1700's when the federal government signed treaties with us which promised non-interference within our territories. These treaties are still valid today.
If any of our nation agree to give meny to the state in some "revenue sharing" formula, this would be severely attacked by its critics, mostly outside the nation, as having "given up sovereignty". These criticisms will come from the greedy individuals in the "first nation" business league, but they may lead to confusion on other Haudenosaunee territories. These business owners are desperate to avoid any control or regulation, because that might mean a decrease in their profits. They will, therefore, resort to almost any tactic to prevent a nation/state agreement. Their tactics of media manipulation via distortions will only escalate.
Control of this unregulated group of businesses will require the complete cooperation of three governments: the federal government, the state government, and our nations' governments. No tax agreement or regulations will be effective unless all businesses on our territories are fully regulated and controlled.
It is also important for state officials to understand that our governments have also been cheated out of millions of dollars in tax revenues by these same greedy individual owners who refuse to pay any government.
It is therefore, important that the cigarette businesses on the nation remain open and profitable. These businesses also provide jobs for our people.
Our nations believe that the state's definition of "revenue sharing" is too narrow, and that a much larger, more comprehensive piture of revenue sharing must be examined.
First, we need to look at the entire scope of excise taxes which are problematic for the state to collect on Indian nations. These include the excise taxes on gasoline, cigarettes and tobacco products, and liquor. The state is receiving considerable political pressure because of the failure to collect the first two of these taxes. We are not unmindful of the lawsuit against the state for failure to collect the gasoline and cigarette taxes. The sale of liquor on the Akwesasne territory has opened a new chapter in the nations/state tax saga.
Attached hereto, as Addendum "A", is the history of revenue sharing with the state as practiced by the Onondaga Nation, over the past five years. We believe that this history is the model for the future of revenue sharing by all of the Haudenosaunee governments with the state.
A. Contemplated Proposal Not To Sell Gasoline Products
Our nations are willing to consider agreeing not to permit the sales of any gasoline prducts on our territories as part of this revenue sharing equation. For instance, the Onondaga Nation Business Rules and Regulations pohibit the storage of any more than 65 gallons of gasoline or petroleum products on the nation. Given the environmental nightmare caused at Onondaga by the leak from the underground tanks and pipes at the former business of Oliver Hill, the nation will strictly enforce this rule.
The Onondaga Nation understands, from the history of former gasoline businesses on our territory; and the location it enjoys with the Route 81 exit and its proximity to Syracuse; that gasoline businesses on the nation could easily expect to sell at least 50 million gallons of gasoline a year. Our agreement not to permit these sales will mean that the sales will occur at gas stations throughout central New york where the state tax will be collected. These sales could generate up to $15,000,000.00 in state revenue, which the nation is "sharing" with the state.
We believe this is a very conservative estimate. We sould also seek to establish some mechanism, such as a "nation pump" at an off-nation gas station to provide our people with tax free gasoline.
B. Potential Liquor Sales
We understand that the St. Regis Tribal Council recently passed a law to permit the sale of liquor on the Akwesasne territory. We are not presently aware of the volume of sales on Akwesasne. However, we believe that our locations would guarantee a high volume of discount liquor sales, if we were to permit such sales.
We are willing to consider prohibiting such liquor sales on our territories. Such prohibitions would share another large sum of money with the state. This amount would probably be as great, or greater than the amount discussed above relative to gasoline sales.
C. "Revenue Sharing" Must Be Recognized As A Two-Way Street
The issue of revenue sharing also raises the complex picture of the calculation of all tax revenues received by the state from all of our people, and their resident Native friends (as per the 1794 Canandaigua Treaty), and their land. Any discussion of revenue sharing between the sovereigns must include the state's recognition that this is a two-way street.
We are waiting for calculations as to the amounts involved in these income, sales, excise, and other taxes which are paid to the state, without the return flow of "municipal taxes" to the nation, as occurs with towns and counties.
The state representatives have made the commitment to gather informations regarding the total tax revenue to the state from all Onondaga people and land; the amounts spent by the state on all Native American programs, with a nation by nation breakdown; and the amount of federal money given to the state for Native American programs or benefit.
D. Economic Benefits To Businesses Outside The Nation From The Sales On Our Territories
Another issue that needs to be stressed is that the money made from the sale of cigarettes on the nation does not just drop into a hole and disappear; the owners and workers of the shops spend most of this money off the nation (out in New York State) or place it in banks on the outside. These bank deposits also generate revenues for the banking institutions and the state.
E. Haudenosaunee Nations Do Not Accept Federal, BIA Money
The traditional Haudenosaunee nations also refuse to accept the millions of dollars which are available through the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. Scores of millions of dollars of these funds are poured into the federally recognized, non-traditional governments at Oneida, St. Regis, and Catarragus and Allegheny Seneca.
The Haudenosaunee feel that their voluntary refusal to accept BIA money is also an important part of the revenue sharing picture.
This fee goes directly into the nation's general account for funding of the multiple programs mentioned above.
It is the Haudenosaunee position that these funds are treaty obligations which were required by various treaties signed by the nation with the federal givernment in the late 1700's. Vast tracts of our aboriginal lands were taken from us in exchange for promises to forever provide for certain services to our people.
All businesses on our territories will be licensed by our governments and will pay the Nation's cigarette fee, which will be substantial enough to bring our prices much closer to those outside our territories.
By shutting down all businesses on our territories which have not been paying any taxes or nation fees, and by raising our fees substantially to approach parity, a large proportion of the sales that have been occurring on our territories, will be shifted to state taxed stores. This will generate tens of millions of dollars in state tax revenues which the state has been unable to collect.
Further, all of the gasoline sales will be shifted to state taxed stations. This shift in sales will also generate tens of millions in tax revenues for the state which it has been unable to collect.
We also feel that our refusal to accept millions of dollars in federal BIA money is revenue sharing by our nations, because we use the cigarette fee revenues to fund nations programs. Finally, in order for revenue sharing to equitable, the state should give back to the nations the various state taxes which it collects from nation member's incomes, and purchases.