Dean forced to explain stance on state taxation
Monday, December 8, 2003

Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean on Friday said he would veto legislation forcing taxation on Indian lands despite having supported a similar proposal in the past.

In a statement, Dean said tribes should not be subject to state taxation. "As President I will oppose legislation that would undermine the principles of tribal sovereignty and would violate the historical relationship between tribes and the federal government," he said.

But in 1997, Dean took a different view. As governor of Vermont, he supported controversial legislation, sponsored by Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.), that would have barred the federal government from taking new lands into trust on behalf of individual Indians or tribes who didn't agree to collect state taxes on the sale of gasoline, tobacco and other goods.

"Although Vermont does not have any Indian land, we lose tax revenues from sales made from Indian lands near our borders. It would be extremely unfortunate if the problem were allowed to grow. I will be pleased to lend my support to this bill," Dean wrote in the letter, which was first reported on Friday by the In The Loop column of The Washington Post.

In response to the item, Dean reiterated his concern about losing revenue to a neighboring state. But of the states surrounding Vermont -- Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New York -- none has Indian lands near the border. Vermont and New Hampshire have no federally recognized tribes either.

Dean aides didn't dispute the former governor's support or the facts surrounding it. But they said he fully understands Indian rights. "He understands something that he didn't then," said Mona Blaber, a spokesperson for the Dean campaign in New Mexico.

Just last month, Dean spoke to the 60th annual convention of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), which was held in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He said he would promote tribal sovereignty, settle the