Oh, That Old Line

According to Frank Fisher, Seneca County attorney:

“We just want … everyone to pay their fair share of taxes. Who could argue with that?’’

That is in reference to Seneca County's "push to foreclose on the five [Cayuga Nation] properties before the federal appeals court rules in the Oneida Indian Nation case."

You see, Seneca County conveniently (or perhaps ignorantly) ignores the fact that it is likely already getting its "fair share" of taxes, for use in providing local services. In fact, the County is probably overcompensated for any services that they provide to local tribal members.

Under the economics of “tax exporting,” it is frequently tribal governments – not state or local governments – that bear a disproportionate financial burden associated with taxation vis-à-vis local services rendered. One study, for example, found that

On most reservations, there are few retail stores and tribal members must go off reservation and pay state taxes on everything they buy. Nationwide, this amounts to $246 million annually in tax revenues to state governments, while states expend only $226 million annually on behalf of reservation residents.

That reality begs the question: why isn't Seneca County interested in negotiating some form of compact with the Cayuga Indian Nation, to resolve its property tax dispute? Intergovernmental tax compacting -- as suggested by the U.S. Supreme Court in Oklahoma Tax Commission v. Citizen Band of Potawatomi Tribe of Oklahoma, 498 U.S. 505, 515 (1991) -- allows for taxation to be commensurate with services rendered, taking into account the unique situations that exist between tribes and their neighbor governments.

Mr, Fisher, perhaps it is Seneca County who is not "paying its fair share of taxes" -- for services rendered to Cayuga Indian Nation citizens.

Gabriel "Gabe" Galanda is a partner at Galanda Broadman PLLC, of Seattle, an American Indian majority-owned law firm.  He is an enrolled member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes of Covelo, California.  He can be reached at 206.691.3631 or gabe@galandabroadman.com, or via galandabroadman.com.