"It's sad that it's taken until the year 2020 for the U.S. Congress to recognize these inequities but it's never too late to do the right thing," said Kildee, who serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means and whose uncle, former Rep. Dale Kildee, was known as a champion for Indian issues in the nation's capital.
Whether it's dual taxation of tribal business activities by states and local governments or disparities in the treatment of tax-exempt bonds issued by tribes, Indian Country's economic development needs are great. But tribes and their advocates say Congress missed a huge opportunity to address these inequities during passage of tax reform legislation more than two years ago. "Congress left Indian Country completely out of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act," National Congress of American Indians President Fawn Sharp said in the State of Indian Nations, delivered in D.C. on February 10. The omission was all the more notable in light of "years of Hill advocacy by NCAI and our partners in promoting Indian Country’s tax reform priorities -- priorities that will clearly boost tribal efforts to build sustainable economies and grow local job opportunities," added Sharp, who will be among the witnesses at the hearing.
"It's really historic," Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Michigan), member of House Ways & Means, told https://t.co/0yYFAWzrcJ today.— indianz.com (@indianz) March 3, 2020
"It's sad that it's taken until the year 2020 for the US Congress to recognize these inequities but it's never too late to do the right thing." @RepDanKildee pic.twitter.com/pduhDkkGfD
Ending dual taxation in Indian Country is another big area of concern. States and local governments are able to take a cut on everything from energy development to sales of basic goods and products so addressing the inequity is a top priority. "Nationwide, it's $40 billion of economic stimulus and it doesn't cost taxpayers a single dime," Gavin Clarkson, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation who is seeking the Republican nomination for an open U.S. Senate seat in New Mexico, said of the benefits of ending dual taxation during NCAI's meeting on February 12. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act became law in 2017, when Republicans were in control of both chambers in Congress. But with the bipartisan representation at Wednesday's hearing -- Democrats Davids and Haaland, plus Cole and Mullin from the GOP -- Kildee said the House Ways and Means Committee is putting Indian Country's interests on the front-burner for the first time since passage of the earlier measure. "We need to figure out what are the specific areas that we can align in the tax code to align with our nation-to-nation relationship and to treat tribal governments like we treat other governments when it comes to taxation," Kildee said.
“This is going to bring a lot more money to Indian Country”: Dante Desiderio (Sappony) of Native American Finance Officers Association says of legislative proposal to address Indian Country tax and finance issues. Tribes left out of 2017 tax reform. #ECWS2020 @nafoaorg @NCAI1944 pic.twitter.com/4T6lNx4U1P— indianz.com (@indianz) February 12, 2020
Going forward, all options for achieving parity for tribal nations should be on the table, Kildee said. Comprehensive legislation or specific fixes to the tax code are potential outcomes from the hearing. "There's all these areas where tax policy was written without even thinking of the effect on tribal governments and we want to fix that," Kildee told Indianz.Com. "My hope is that we can do as much as possible," Kildee added. Timing is going to be an issue, tribal leaders and advocates acknowledge. The current session of Congress will conclude at the end of this year, giving Indian Country several more months to advance potential fixes before having to start over again in 2021. "Indian Country has a unique opportunity to pass a tribal tax bill in the 116th Congress," Larry Wright Jr., the chairman of the Ponca Tribe said at NCAI's winter meeting last month. The organization has established a tax and finance task force, consisting of Wright and other tribal leaders, to take advantage of the current political climate.
And with the presidential campaign in full swing, attention will certainly draw minds away from D.C. Almost all of the Democrats who are still in the race have released Indian Country platforms that highlight infrastructure and economic needs in tribal communities. "Reorienting government policy to promote economic development isn’t simply about removing barriers that have prevented Native Americans and indigenous people from accessing the economic opportunities they have been denied," Elizabeth Warren, the senior U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, stated in her comprehensive agenda, which she announced last August. "It also requires streamlining and removing unnecessary administrative barriers that impede economic growth on Tribal lands, respecting tribal jurisdiction over tribal businesses, and promoting forward-looking efforts to ensure full access to new and emerging economic opportunities. “The indigenous peoples of this land deserve respect – respect for their sovereignty, respect for their right to self-governance, respect for their culture – and that’s what they’ll receive when I’m president," Mike Bloomberg, a former mayor of New York City, said in releasing his tribal platform last week. "For decades, Joe Biden has worked to foster tribal sovereignty and prosperity, and to ensure the United States follows through on the commitments it has made to Indian Country," the former vice president's policy reads. "He knows that Tribal Nations should be empowered to govern Native communities and that the United States must work harder to meet its solemn trust and treaty obligations." The hearing before the Select Revenue Measures Subcommittee takes place at 10am Eastern in Room 1100 of the Longworth House Office Building. The witness list follows:
Chairman Larry Wright of Ponca Tribe is updating National Congress of American Indians on new efforts to include Indian Country in tax reform. Says tribes were left out of tax reform legislation enacted by Congress in 2017. #ECWS2020 @poncatribeofne @ncai1944 pic.twitter.com/pfat1alMN8— indianz.com (@indianz) February 12, 2020
The Honorable Sharice Davids
Member of Congress The Honorable Deb Haaland
Member of Congress The Honorable Tom Cole
Member of Congress The Honorable Markwayne Mullin
Member of Congress PANEL 2
President, National Congress of American Indians Cristina Danforth
President of the Board, Native American Financial Officer’s Association Kenneth Kahn
Chairman, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Rodney Butler
Chairman, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation Matthew Wesaw
Chairman, Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians