The House had a hot debate over oil taxes this evening, but it wasn’t just about a reduction in the rate for the oil extraction tax (more on that here). The primary purpose of HB1234 was to establish the state’s oil revenue sharing with the tribes.
It’s appropriate that tribal governments get a share of oil tax revenue, given that tribal lands are feeling significant impact from oil development, but Rep. Mark Dosch (R-Bismarck) pointed out during a passionate floor speech that the agreement Governor Jack Dalrymple has struck with the tribes contains no requirement for the money to be spent on improving conditions for tribal members.
Rep. Dosch asked bill carrier Rep. Dave Drovdal (R-Arnegard) if the bill had any such requirement. “When we asked them for a requirement,” Rep. Drovdal said in response, “they told us…they are a sovereign nation.”
Here’s video of the exchange:
Rep. Dosch referenced the state’s agreement with the tribes for reservation gambling, noting that the proceeds from the casinos were supposed to go toward helping tribal members. “Twenty years later I don’t see much improvement,” he said. “Nobody seems to know where those profits are gone.”
“The tribal governments are unwilling to commit to us that they will use the money to benefit all Native Americans,” Rep. Dosch said. “That is a shame.”
Indeed it is. The corruption on the reservations is, unfortunately, widespread and notorious. And sovereign nation or not, the state doesn’t have to share oil tax revenue with the reservations.
Showering money down onto corrupt tribal leadership, with everybody knowing that very little of the funds will be used to improve conditions on the reservations, makes state leaders complicit in reservations problems.