Want to Keep That Racist Name, NFL? Then Start Paying Taxes, Says Senator

AP Photo/Manuel Balce CenetaSen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wa., from left, President of National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and Chairman of the Swinomish Tribe Brian Cladoosby, and Amy Sarck Dobmeier of the Qissunamiut Tribe of Alaska join other native Americans and lawmakers during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014, to pressure the Washington Redskins football team to change their name. Cantwell says she will introduce a bill to eliminate the NFL's tax-exempt status because the league has not taken action over the Washington Redskins name. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wa., from left, President of National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and Chairman of the Swinomish Tribe Brian Cladoosby, and Amy Sarck Dobmeier of the Qissunamiut Tribe of Alaska join other native Americans and lawmakers during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014, to pressure the Washington Redskins football team to change their name. Cantwell says she will introduce a bill to eliminate the NFL’s tax-exempt status because the league has not taken action over the Washington Redskins name. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)



The National Football League is obviously a hugely profitable enterprise. According to Forbes, its net revenues are more than $9 billion, more than any other sports league. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s pay package last year was reportedly $29.4 million. The teams make a lot of money, Goodell makes a lot of money, and the league has as much as it needs to spend, as evidenced by the $36 million it shelled out for its new New York City headquarters.

Yet according to the U.S. governement, the NFL is a nonprofit—and therefore not subject to taxes. Earlier today, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) announced that she will introduce legislation to revoke the league’s tax-exempt status due to its refusal to take action on the Washington Redskins name, which is defined in most dictionaries as a derogatory racial slur.

“The NFL needs to join the rest of Americans in the 21st century,” Cantwell said, according to the Washington Post. “It is about right and wrong.”

Cantwell was speaking at a press conference organized by the Change The Mascot campaign, which has been spearheaded by Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter. Change the Mascot announced that it is sending a letter, signed by Halbritter and Brian Cladoosby, President of the National Congress of American Indians, to all NFL team owners. It reads, in part:

The league is promoting this racial slur with the resources of every team, including yours, which makes it a league-wide crisis. Indeed, Congress has granted the league tax exempt status and anti-trust exemptions, in part, because it is a singular American institution—one in which you are a financial stakeholder. That status provides you both the opportunity and obligation to act so that your own resources—and taxpayer resources—are no longer being expended to promote this slur.

Change the Mascot goes on to suggest that the NFL should put pressure on Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder. According to the NFL’s own bylaws, the league can take disciplinary action against any “owner, shareholder, partner or holder of an interest in a member club (who) is guilty of conduct detrimental to the welfare of the League or professional football.”


Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/09/16/want-keep-racist-name-nfl-then-start-paying-taxes-says-senator-156923

County refunding $5 million in taxes to building owners on tribal land


By Noah Haglund, The Herald

EVERETT — Snohomish County has started mailing millions of dollars in property-tax refunds to building owners on tribal land, as a result of a court case with nationwide implications.

Big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart and Home Depot at the Tulalip Tribes’ Quil Ceda Village along I-5, plus some 1,200 homeowners, are in line for about $5 million in combined payments, county officials said

The money will come out of budgets for schools, fire departments and other taxing districts.

Local governments stand to recoup some lost revenue, but property owners who aren’t exempt from the ruling will be left with a larger share of the future tax burden.

“That will be a shift,” county Assessor Cindy Portmann said.

The changes under way here, and elsewhere in Washington, stem from a legal fight over a resort in Thurston County.

Thurston County had been collecting property taxes on Great Wolf Lodge, the water park resort midway between Seattle and Portland. Great Wolf Lodge occupies federal land held in trust for the Chehalis Tribe, which owns 51 percent of the local partnership.

Thurston County started assessing property taxes on the resort buildings in 2007. In 2008, the year the resort opened, the Chehalis Tribe sued, arguing the property should be exempt from property taxes. Though the tribe lost an initial battle in federal district court, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year decided in its favor.

Tulalip tribal leaders view the court’s decision as a long-overdue correction to an injustice.

“(It’s) a great victory for Indian Country for the federal government to finally recognize its obligations under the treaties they established with Indian nations giving us the right to exist as sovereign nations,” said Les Parks, vice chairman of the tribes’ Board of Directors.

A 1955 federal law established that sovereign Indian nations are exempt from paying local or state taxes on federal lands held in trust for tribes. As a result, the land itself was exempt from county property taxes. Buildings and other improvements on that land also were considered exempt, if owned by Indians.

That wasn’t the case for buildings and other improvements owned by non-Indians. Counties considered that property taxable, and acted accordingly.

Last year’s federal court decision stopped that practice. It made property taxation uniform on the trust lands, regardless of who owns any buildings.

County assessors in Washington are just now figuring out how to comply.

The Snohomish County Assessor’s Office estimates that the change will remove nearly $106 million from this year’s tax rolls.

The approximately 1,400 taxpayers in line for a refund include Seattle Premium Outlets, Wal-Mart and Home Depot, among other businesses located on Tulalip tribal land fronting I-5. Of the total, some 1,200 are homeowners, including non-tribal residents living on leased land around Tulalip Bay. What they have in common is that none are tribal members but all own improvements — mainly buildings — on land that the federal government holds in trust for the tribes.

“The buildings were taxable, but now they are exempt,” Portmann said.

The court decision is retroactive to the second half of 2011. It covers any 2014 property taxes already paid to the county.

Commercial properties on Tulalip property along I-5 are owed nearly $2.7 million combined, treasurer Kirke Sievers said. The total does not include the Tulalip Resort or Cabela’s buildings, which are owned by the Tulalips and were previously considered exempt.

A typical homeowner with one of the affected properties could receive a $2,500 refund for the three years.

“That’s strictly an eyeball look at what I’m seeing going across my desk,” Sievers said.

The treasurer said it likely will take his staff a few months to complete mailing all of the refunds.

The revenues now being returned had been collected for fire protection, education, libraries and a host of other countywide services.

The Marysville School District could take the biggest financial hit — up to $2 million — for the three years. The Marysville Fire District could lose up to $500,000. Fire District 15, covering the Tulalip area, could be out $150,000.

Some districts have the ability to recoup the revenue in 2015 — but it would be borne by taxpayers in the form of higher bills. The potential revenue estimates are worst-case scenarios, because county hasn’t had time to calculate variables such as delinquent payments and exemptions.

A refund levy allows taxing districts to raise their levy amounts to recover past losses, if they don’t exceed their maximum rate.

The Marysville School District expects to make up most, if not all of its lost revenue through a refund levy, said Jim Baker, executive director for finance and operations.

“This issue should be a short-term ‘cash flow’ issue not a total loss of local property taxes for the district,” Baker wrote in an email.

The Marysville Fire District, on the other hand, probably doesn’t have enough levy capacity to make up much of its loss.

“We know we won’t be able to get all of it back,” finance manager Chelsie Reece said.

The Tulalip Tribes want to work with affected districts to help manage any negative impacts, Parks said.

“We’re all partners in the same community,” he said. “We’ll fully research what the impacts are going to be and minimize those impacts.”

The tribal government hopes to set up its own assessor’s office over the next few months to start collecting property taxes for government services, Parks said. Though they could have assessed property taxes in past years, he said, they opted against it to avoid double-taxing property owners.


Attacking Sovereignty: 2nd Circuit Rules to Tax Slots at Tribal Casino

Gale Courey Toensing, Indian Country Today Media Nework

A federal appeals court has ruled that the slot machines leased by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe from non-tribal businesses can be taxed.

The ruling by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals on July 15 reversed a decision by a federal district court judge that said states and their subdivisions cannot tax property on Indian land regardless of who owns it. (Related story: Mashantucket Court Ruling Reaffirms Non-taxable Status of Reservations)

The Nation has the option of asking for a rehearing or filing a petition with the United States Supreme Court to review the appeals court ruling but no such decision has yet been made. “’We just received the decision today and continue to review it,” William L. Satti, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation’s (MPTN) Director of Public Affairs, said on July 16. “We are disappointed that the Court of Appeals reversed the District Court’s decision, which ruled in favor of the tribe.”

The town of Ledyard called the ruling “a precedent-setting decision in favor of state and local governments,” according to The Day. “With this decision, the town of Ledyard will be able to collect taxes that are critically important to providing government services, including those that result from being a host community for the Foxwoods casino,” said Ledyard Mayor John Rodolico. “This case was just the tip of the iceberg, and our tax revenues would have taken a huge hit if we had not persevered throughout this eight-year legal battle to achieve this victory,” he said.

The ruling notes that the town expends $652,158 annually on services to the Nation offset by around $415,900 in federal aid, leaving the town with $236,258 in non-reimbursed costs. It also notes the MPTN employs 10,000 people and has reimbursed the state more than $56 million for law enforcement services since it opened in 1992. The Nation has contributed almost $3.3 billion from slot revenues to the state and around $85 million in donations to local organizations.

Michael Willis, an attorney with the firm Hobbs, Strauss, Dean & Walker who specializes in Indian tax issues, called the 2nd Circuit ruling “very controversial” because it concerns Indian gaming activities. “I think the shocking part of the 2nd Circuit Decision is there are specific provisions in IGRA that indicate that states are not allowed to tax Indian gaming activities and in order to get around that the 2nd Circuit says owning a slot machine is not in itself a gaming activity,” Willis told Indian Country Today Media Network. “But the reality is if slot machines were not engaged in Class III gaming activity on behalf of the tribe, they’d be illegal in the State of Connecticut so, really, it’s hard to fathom how the 2nd Circuit comes up with the view that slot machines are not engaged in gaming activity. It’s absurd. It overturns what was a fairly reasoned opinion in the lower court.”

In March 2012, a federal court granted the Nation’s motion for summary judgment in complaints it had filed against the town in August 2006 and September 2008 on behalf of two vendors – New Jersey-based Atlantic City Coin & Slot Co. and WMS Gaming – who lease slot machines to the tribe for use at Foxwoods Resort Casino. The Nation had argued that imposition of the tax by the town was preempted by the federal Indian Trader Statutes and the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and cited White Mountain Apache Tribe v. Bracker, which balances federal, state and tribal interests, federal district court Judge Warren W. Eginton upheld the Nation’s position and wrote in his ruling, “Indian tribes are distinct sovereign entities that are ‘distinct, independent political communities retaining their original natural rights.’” Worcester is one of the Marshall Trilogy cases from 1823 to 1832 that set the foundation for Indian law. The trilogy paradoxically asserts the sovereignty of Indian nations while denying them land rights other than occupancy. “States do not have authority to regulate Indian tribes where a state law is preempted by federal law or infringes upon the ‘right of reservation Indians to make their own laws and be ruled by them,’” Eginton said.

But the appeals court said the federal court had erred and none of MPTN’s arguments bars the town from taxing a non-tribal entity. The panel called it a “close case” but ultimately ruled in favor of the state and town of Ledyard. “[T]he tribe’s generalized interests in sovereignty and economic development are not significantly impeded by the state’s generally-applicable tax; neither are the federal interests protected in IGRA,” the ruling says. “The town has moderate economic and administrative interests at stake, and the affront to the state’s sovereignty on one hand approximates the affront to the tribe’s sovereignty on the other. The balance of equities here favors the town and state.

The town spent more than $900,000 on legal fees in the case, according to The Day. The 2nd Circuit ruling notes that the slot machines leased by the two companies combined generate $20,000 in annual property taxes.


Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/07/22/attacking-sovereignty-2nd-circuit-rules-tax-slots-tribal-casino-150526

Inslee on budget: ‘I choose education over tax breaks’

By Jerry Cornfield, The Herald
OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee prescribed his plan Thursday for pumping $1.3 billion more into the state’s public school system then challenged lawmakers to buck up and pay for it by ending popular tax breaks and extending taxes set to expire this summer.The first-term governor wants to fund full-day kindergarten in high poverty schools and make preschool available for more children of low-income families.

He also wants to pay for smaller kindergarten and first grade classes, beef up reading intervention and dropout prevention programs and hire 1,400 secondary school teachers in order add courses in middle and high schools.

And he’d pour half of the new money into shouldering a greater share of the bill for school bus service and the purchase of materials and supplies in each school district.

Most of the investment is a first step toward complying with a Supreme Court decision last year that found lawmakers in violation of the state Constitution by not adequately funding public schools.

“To govern, it is said, is to choose,” Inslee said after releasing a broad blueprint of his priorities for the next two-year state budget. “Today, I choose, and I believe we should all choose, education over tax breaks, and to make good on our constitutional and moral duty to quality schools for our children.”

Republicans in the House and Senate didn’t object to how Inslee wants to spend the money only his reliance on taxes to pay for it. They wished he’d looked harder to trim government spending and not put as many dollars into salaries and benefits of state employees.

“I don’t see one on there I can support,” Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville said of the list of tax breaks. “You’re not choosing between kids and tax cuts. You’re choosing between bureaucrats and tax hikes.”

House Democrats said Inslee’s plan spending and tax proposals are on the same scale as the ones in the budget they are writing.

“Overall I think the budget reflected the values of our caucus pretty well,” said House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington.

To pay for his education plan, Inslee wants to generate $565 million by repealing or revising 11 tax exemptions most of which have been a political hit list before and survived.

Among them are ones that could lead to bottled water getting taxed and Oregon residents paying sales taxes.

Time and again Thursday, Inslee said it comes down to preserving those breaks or preparing the next generation of engineers and scientists.

“I challenge anyone, anyone in any part of the state in any industry to argue that any single one of these tax breaks is more important than the STEM education of these students,” he said.

Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, serves on the Senate budget committee that will have to approve any of them.

“I don’t think anything is more important than education other than getting our economy going again,” she said. “Adding more taxes on businesses has a dampening effect on growth.”

Inslee also wants to make permanent a hike in the business and occupation tax paid by doctors, lawyers and accountants and a 50-cent-per-gallon tax on beer. He also wants to expand the beer tax to cover all producers; today it only applies to those making in excess of 60,000 barrels a year.

Inslee hopes to bring in $661 million from these taxes which were enacted in 2010 and are set to expire June 30.

Inslee, who campaigned against raising taxes, said his plan doesn’t backtrack on that. He said he repeatedly pledged to close tax break and not seek a general tax increase.

“I am fulfilling on my commitment to the ‘T’,” he said.

For owners of small breweries the change in the beer tax means they the tax they pay on each 31-gallon barrel produced could rise from $4.78 to $20.28.

“We’re going to pass it through and it will go through to the beer drinker,” said co-owner Phil Bannan, co-owner of Scuttlebutt Brewing Co. in Everett. “Beer is a common man’s drink so this is going to hit the common man in the wallet.”

Kegs, which hold 15.5 gallons and cost around $135 apiece today, could go up in price by about $10, he said.

“I don’t disagree with the priority of education,” he said. “But I disagree with his way of solving it.”

What Inslee released Thursday was his spending priorities for the two-year budget which begins July 1.

With a projected shortfall of $1.3 billion, Inslee is proposing to save $321 million by suspending the cost-of-living raises for teachers required under Initiative 732. He also suggests cutting $29.8 million in funding for alternative learning experience programs which cover costs of online and home school programs.

In other parts of his budget proposal Inslee backs full expansion of the Medicaid program. That move, he said, will reportedly save the state nearly $300 million as the federal government picks up the cost of covering the estimated 255,000 adults who could become eligible.

He wants to hire more child and adult protective services caseworkers, restore the 3 percent pay cuts for state employees and put $23.7 million into state parks.

With release of his proposal, Inslee kicked off the budget debate in Olympia.

The Republican-dominated Senate Majority Coalition expects to release its budget early next week followed by the House Democrats.

The 105-day legislative session is scheduled to end April 28.