Tribal Attorney Harold Monteau Wants it Both Ways
WPC’s Chris Cargill wrote recently about the huge advantage tribal casinos have over their non-Indian competitors because tribes don’t have to pay the same taxes as the rest of us. Harold Monteau, a Chippewa Cree attorney, indignantly responded in Indian Country Today. In reading his response it seems Mr. Monteau wants to have it both ways -- tribes are sovereign when it comes to taxation and governance, but part of the United States when it comes to market access and business profits.
He says tribes should be exempt from U.S. corporate taxes and state taxes, and should not have to negotiate state compacts that devote some casino profits to help pay for state services (he calls tribal payments to states pick pocketing). The Gambling Commission reports the state’s 29 tribes operate 27 tax-exempt casinos which together generate over $1.3 billion per year. According to the Policy Guide for Washington State (p. 50), tribal business are exempt from the gaming tax, B&O tax, property tax, voter-passed levies, sales tax, tobacco tax, the smoking ban, workers’ comp. tax, unemployment tax, gas tax and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Mr. Monteau says tribes are protected by international law.
At the same time he wants tribal businesses to have full access to the American market, with no restrictions on non-tribal citizens spending money in tribal casinos, no limit on the flow of money from tribal businesses to the larger financial market, no limits on investments, loans, contracts and partnerships, and no limits on the tribes’ access to the U.S. labor market.
Finally, most governments raise revenue by taxing citizens who then, through elections, have a say in how that revenue is spent. Tribal governments raise money through casino customers, most of whom cannot participate in tribal elections and have no say in how tribal leaders spend money.
In sum, Mr. Monteau wants all the advantages of being a sovereign government, but none of the downside of being outside the American economy. Every business owner wants to maximize profits and minimize tax payments -- that’s natural -- but we don’t let them decide this for themselves. Instead business owners have to join with the rest of us in setting tax and economic policy through the democratic process. That’s the only fair way to decide who pays taxes and who receives the benefits.