Tribes Contribute Millions of Dollars to Washington Communities, Non-Profits

Quil Ceda VillageNestled between Seattle and Vancouver, BC, the Tulalip Indian-owned Quil Ceda Village offers gaming, luxury accommodations, entertainment, shopping, fine dining and more.
Quil Ceda Village
Nestled between Seattle and Vancouver, BC, the Tulalip Indian-owned Quil Ceda Village offers gaming, luxury accommodations, entertainment, shopping, fine dining and more.


Richard Walker, Indian Country Today


SEATTLE – Casinos operated by 22 Native Nations in Washington State generated millions of dollars in contributions to communities, non-profits, and smoking-cessation and problem-gambling programs in 2013 and 2014, according to a report by the Washington State Gambling Commission.

In accordance with compacts, or agreements, with the state, Native Nations contribute 0.5 percent of machine gaming net receipts to nonprofit and charitable organizations; up to 2 percent of table-game net receipts to governmental agencies; 0.13 percent of machine gaming net receipts to smoking-cessation programs; and 0.13 percent of Class III net receipts to problem-gambling programs.

Staff members of the state commission presented “Tribal State Compact Tribal Contributions” to commissioners on Jan. 15. Commissioners and reporters had the opportunity that day to ride along with enforcement agents, watch gaming-machine compliance tests, and tour a forensics lab.

The mission of the gambling commission is “Protect the Public by Ensuring that Gambling is Legal & Honest,” and Native Nations with casinos help in that mission through the compact and, in many cases, with their own gaming commissions.

According to the report: Native Nations with casinos distributed nearly $6.5 million in community impact funds in 2013, and $6.6 million in 2012; contributed copy2.6 million in 2013 and copy1.8 million in 2012 to non-profits and charities; allocated $2.4 million in 2014 and $2.2 million in 2013 for smoking-cessation programs; and allocated $2.8 million in 2014 and $2.5 million in 2013 to help prevent and treat gambling addictions.

Community impact funds are invested in local law enforcement, public safety, and roads. Charitable funds benefit local food banks, disaster relief organizations, sports and recreation programs, United Way, veterans organizations, YMCA, YWCA, youth organizations, and others.  Smoking-cessation and problem-gambling contributions help pay for the state Department of Health’s 1-800 Quit Line, community behavioral-health programs, and programs operated by local health care authorities.

Contributions for 2015 were not available.

Jobs Providers

For most if not all Native Nations that have casinos, gaming is only part of a larger economic development portfolio. According to Julie Saw’Leit’Sa Johnson, Lummi, chairwoman of the Native American Caucus of the Washington State Democratic Party, Native Nations – or Tribes – are collectively the fourth-largest source of jobs in Washington state.

The Quinault Nation, owner of the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino, as well as other ventures, is the largest employer in Grays Harbor County. The Suquamish Tribe’s Port Madison Enterprises, which manages the Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort, White Horse Golf Club, and other ventures, is the second-largest private-sector employer in Kitsap County, west of Seattle. The Tulalip Tribes town of Quil Ceda Village, home of Tulalip Resort Casino, Tulalip Amphitheater, Seattle Premium Outlets, and other dining, entertainment and retail businesses, is the third-largest source of jobs in Snohomish County.

Many casino-resorts have evolved beyond gaming and become convention, dining and entertainment destinations, as well as showcases for cultural art. Guests at the Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort Hotel can take a shuttle to the Suquamish Museum and other cultural sites. The new Yakama Nation Legends Casino Hotel is being built a half-mile from the Yakama Nation Museum & Cultural Center.



Revenue forecast for state increases by $368 million

Recovering economy, tax code changes boosting numbers

By BRAD SHANNON, The Olympian

Washington’s top economic forecaster, Steve Lerch, says the slow-recovering economy and tax changes approved by the Legislature are expected to generate $368 million more revenue for state operations than he last predicted the state would collect by mid-2015.

The better financial outlook includes $123 million that is largely the result of tax code changes approved by lawmakers.

The overall gain to the state’s accounts means that most state workers are more likely to qualify for a 1 percent cost-of-living pay adjustment in July 2014. Most contracts for general government workers had a conditional 1 percent raise built in that would be triggered by how much next February’s forecast attributes higher general-fund revenues to increased economic activity.

“If we get any kind of positive in November (when the next forecast is scheduled), it’s likely that salary increase will be part of our budget. It’s a mathematical calculation,” state budget director David Schumacher said after Lerch announced the revenue forecast Wednesday during a meeting of the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council. “We’re very close.”

Said Tim Welch, spokesman for the Washington Federation of State Employees, which represents roughly 40,000 state and college employees: “It’s headed in the right direction, but we’ll have to wait and see until February 2014.”

Lawmakers who serve on the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council said the new revenue is good news but not enough to alter the way they must approach their 2013-15 supplemental budget plan during the next legislative session starting in January. The Legislature is under court order to improve funding for K-12 schools, and lawmakers still do not know if this year’s increased investment of almost $1 billion is enough to satisfy the state Supreme Court.

“My take is it’s a relatively small move, and it helps us have an ending fund balance that’s larger than 47 cents,” said House Appropriations chairman Ross Hunter, D-Medina. “I don’t think this creates a big opportunity to spend, or changes anything we were doing.”

Said Senate Ways and Means chairman Andy Hill, R-Redmond: “I think you just bank that money.”

In fact, the new money gives the state about $862.7 million in total general-fund reserves for the current budget.

Hunter did warn there is a litigation risk — involving two lawsuits going before the state Supreme Court next month — on state employee pensions. In a worst case, these could cost $1.3 billion, according to the state actuary.

In his forecast, Lerch said the economy is continuing to slowly improve since the Great Recession began more than five years ago. But he told the forecast council that the way forward has many risks.

He noted that job growth had been slower nationally in August and said forecasters in his office are “more than a little concerned about what is going on in the other Washington” — particularly with congressional votes yet to occur on a federal budget or to increase the federal government’s debt ceiling.

“Should either one of those things not happen, we know that will have a big impact on consumer confidence and on the economy,” Lerch said. “So that’s certainly a risk we’re watching. We’ve become a bit more concerned about housing affordability, and Europe is … still very weak.”

Lerch’s forecast included a prediction that revenues in the 2015-17 budget period also would be up by a total of $342 million. But he said $249 million of that was due to legislative action and the smaller share because of economic improvement.

Before adjourning their second special session June 29, lawmakers authorized about a dozen changes in tax law, including changes to a telephone tax and to the estate tax laws after state Supreme Court rulings opened unintended loopholes in those tax codes.

Read more here:

Cherokee Nation Provides $1.3 Billion Impact on Oklahoma Economy

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker is joined by Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb for economic impact announcement.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker is joined by Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb for economic impact announcement.

Source: Native News Network

TULSA, OKLAHOMA – Touting the phrase “A strong Cherokee Nation means a strong Oklahoma,” the Cherokee Nation announced on Tuesday the Tribe provides a $1.3 billion economic impact to the state of Oklahoma’s economy.

Tribal officials announced its impact Tuesday during a luncheon with several state, county and local officials at its entertainment flagship property, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.

The research study shows, with the $1.3 billion economic impact, the tribe’s activities directly and indirectly support more than 14,000 jobs and provide more than $559 million in income payments.

“The Cherokee Nation is stronger than ever and, as a result, so is the state of Oklahoma,”

said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker.

“What is good for the Cherokee Nation is good for everyone in our state. From the number of jobs we provide to the services we administer to the local vendors we put to work, the Cherokee Nation positively impacts the lives of so many Oklahomans. And we’re not going anywhere. Essentially, the Cherokee Nation is a corporate headquarters that will never leave town.”

Since 2010 study, the Tribe has increased its direct economic output to more than $1 billion, which is a 25 percent growth. Cherokee Nation’s direct pay to employees has increased by more than $120 million, resulting in more than $375 million in income payments to its workers. During the same period, direct employment grew by nearly 250, reaching 9,244 employees, including contract workers.

“Cherokee Nation government and business operations continue to offer expanded economic opportunities in northeast Oklahoma,”

said Dr. Russell Evans, executive director of the Steven C. Agee Economic Research and Policy Institute, who authored the report assessing the Cherokee Nation’s economic impact on northeast Oklahoma.

“The tribe’s operations are a critical source of economic strength for the region.”

With its capital in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation provides an array of government services, spurs economic development and provides financial support to the entire region.

Cherokee Nation works alongside county, state and local governments to improve roads and bridges, provide much needed funding to rural schools, ensure communities have good, clean running water and improve access to health care.

Cherokee Nation’s economic development engine, Cherokee Nation Businesses, reported record revenues of more than $715 million during fiscal year 2012. Along with supporting vital government services, the Cherokee Nation reinvests its business profits to create more Oklahoma jobs and further diversify its non-gaming businesses.

Beyond its direct investments, Cherokee Nation supports a number of local, diverse and growing industries that help drive private and public sector partnerships. The tribe assists with child care, career training and development, elder services and contract health. These services, as well as other services, are often met through the private sector and funded by the Cherokee Nation. This impact also comes in the form of goods or services purchased for Cherokee Nation economic activities.

For example, the tribe recently announced a $100 million investment in its tribal health care system, which supports more than a million patient visits each year. This type of activity spurs purchases and subcontracting to many privately owned small businesses throughout the tribe’s jurisdiction.

“It’s very eye opening to people when they begin to understand all the Cherokee Nation does for our state and, specifically, the northeast region,”

Baker said.

“We are extremely proud to support more than 14,000 employees and countless small businesses. As a lifelong small business owner myself, I know how important a strong local economy is and what it means to the people who live here.”

The report was commissioned by the Cherokee Nation and produced by Evans. He and his research team at the Steven C. Agee Economic Research and Policy Institute in the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma carefully collected and reviewed data to paint an accurate picture of the Cherokee Nation’s impact on the state of Oklahoma.

Senate fails to lower student loan rates

Phillip Elliott, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats on Wednesday failed to restore lower interest rates on student loans, again coming up short and perhaps signaling that undergraduates might really face rates twice as high as the ones they enjoyed last year.

The proposal from Democratic leaders would have left interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans at 3.4 percent for another year while lawmakers took up a comprehensive overhaul. The one-year stopgap measure failed to overcome a procedural hurdle as Republicans — and a few Democrats — urged colleagues to consider a plan now that would link interest rates to the financial markets and reduce Congress’ role in setting students’ borrowing rates.

The competing proposals failed and lawmakers said students would face higher costs to repay their loans after graduation.

“Today our nation’s students once again wait in vain for relief,” said Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. “They expected more of us and I share their disappointment.”

“Today, we failed. And our nation’s students pay the cost of that failure,” he added after the vote.

The failure to win a one-year approval — combined with little interest in such a deal in the Republican-led House — meant students would be borrowing money for fall courses at a rate leaders in both parties called unacceptable.

The rate increase does not affect many students right away; loan documents are generally signed just before students return to campus, and few students returned to school over the July Fourth holiday. Existing loans were not affected, either.

However, absent congressional action in the coming weeks, the increase could spell an extra $2,600 for an average student returning to campus this fall, according to Congress’ Joint Economic Committee.

During last year’s presidential campaign, lawmakers from both parties voted to keep interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans at 3.4 percent. Yet this year, without a presidential election looming, the issue seemed to fizzle and the July 1 deadline passed without action.

The White House and most Democratic senators favored keeping the rates at 3.4 percent for now and including a broad overhaul of federal student loans in the Higher Education Act rewrite lawmakers expect to take up this fall.

“It’s not just what rate. It’s how do we keep college costs in check?” said Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat who pushed for the extension measures. “It will allow us to work through a very complicated set of issues.”

The Republican-led House has already passed legislation that links interest rates to financial markets. Republicans in the House were opposed to a one-year extension, meaning Wednesday’s Senate vote might not have meant much relief for students even if it had passed.

Efforts to find a compromise went nowhere as well. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia worked with the top Republican on the education panel, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, to write a bipartisan bill that closely follows the GOP bill. That bill incorporated an idea that originally was included in President Barack Obama’s budget to link interest rates to the financial markets before he distanced himself from it.

Global threat to food supply as water wells dry up, warns top environment expert

Iraq is among the countries in the Middle East facing severe water shortages. Photo: Ali al-Saadi/AFP
Iraq is among the countries in the Middle East facing severe water shortages. Photo: Ali al-Saadi/AFP

John Vidal, The Guardian

Wells are drying up and underwater tables falling so fast in the Middle East and parts of India, China and the US that food supplies are seriously threatened, one of the world’s leading resource analysts has warned.

In a major new essay Lester Brown, head of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington, claims that 18 countries, together containing half the world’s people, are now overpumping their underground water tables to the point – known as “peak water” – where they are not replenishing and where harvests are getting smaller each year.

The situation is most serious in the Middle East. According to Brown: “Among the countries whose water supply has peaked and begun to decline are Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. By 2016 Saudi Arabia projects it will be importing some 15m tonnes of wheat, rice, corn and barley to feed its population of 30 million people. It is the first country to publicly project how aquifer depletion will shrink its grain harvest.

“The world is seeing the collision between population growth and water supply at the regional level. For the first time in history, grain production is dropping in a geographic region with nothing in sight to arrest the decline. Because of the failure of governments in the region to mesh population and water policies, each day now brings 10,000 more people to feed and less irrigation water with which to feed them.”

Brown warns that Syria’s grain production peaked in 2002 and since then has dropped 30%; Iraq has dropped its grain production 33% since 2004; and production in Iran dropped 10% between 2007 and 2012 as its irrigation wells started to go dry.

“Iran is already in deep trouble. It is feeling the effects of shrinking water supplies from overpumping. Yemen is fast becoming a hydrological basket case. Grain production has fallen there by half over the last 35 years. By 2015 irrigated fields will be a rarity and the country will be importing virtually all of its grain.”

There is also concern about falling water tables in China, India and the US, the world’s three largest food-producing countries. “In India, 175 million people are being fed with grain produced by overpumping, in China 130 million. In the United States the irrigated area is shrinking in leading farm states with rapid population growth, such as California and Texas, as aquifers are depleted and irrigation water is diverted to cities.”

Falling water tables are already adversely affecting harvest prospects in China, which rivals the US as the world’s largest grain producer, says Brown. “The water table under the North China Plain, an area that produces more than half of the country’s wheat and a third of its maize is falling fast. Overpumping has largely depleted the shallow aquifer, forcing well drillers to turn to the region’s deep aquifer, which is not replenishable.”

The situation in India may be even worse, given that well drillers are now using modified oil-drilling technology to reach water half a mile or more deep. “The harvest has been expanding rapidly in recent years, but only because of massive overpumping from the water table. The margin between food consumption and survival is precarious in India, whose population is growing by 18 million per year and where irrigation depends almost entirely on underground water. Farmers have drilled some 21m irrigation wells and are pumping vast amounts of underground water, and water tables are declining at an accelerating rate in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.”

In the US, farmers are overpumping in the Western Great Plains, including in several leading grain-producing states such as Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. Irrigated agriculture has thrived in these states, but the water is drawn from the Ogallala aquifer, a huge underground water body that stretches from Nebraska southwards to the Texas Panhandle. “It is, unfortunately, a fossil aquifer, one that does not recharge. Once it is depleted, the wells go dry and farmers either go back to dryland farming or abandon farming altogether, depending on local conditions,” says Brown.

“In Texas, located on the shallow end of the aquifer, the irrigated area peaked in 1975 and has dropped 37% since then. In Oklahoma irrigation peaked in 1982 and has dropped by 25%. In Kansas the peak did not come until 2009, but during the three years since then it has dropped precipitously, falling nearly 30%. Nebraska saw its irrigated area peak in 2007. Since then its grain harvest has shrunk by 15%.”

Brown warned that many other countries may be on the verge of declining harvests. “With less water for irrigation, Mexico may be on the verge of a downturn in its grain harvest. Pakistan may also have reached peak water. If so, peak grain may not be far behind.”