November 30th, 2010
As part of the continuing struggle between New York and various tribal nations located there, several tribes have requested the U.S. to approve taking new lands into trust, which turns them into Indian Country under federal law. See 25 U.S.C. sections 465 & 1151.
Even though the Supreme Court encouraged tribes to take this administrative approach, in lieu of self-help provisions, the state of New York and various counties and cities are vigorouly opposing these attempts.
New York Senator Charles Schumer has joined this debate and is urging federal officials in the U.S. Department of Interior to reject the Cayuga Indian Nation’s request to place 125 acres of land into a federal trust.
According to Schumer’s office, he told Department of Interior Deputy Secretary David Hayes that the final environmental impact study of the nation’s application does not adequately address the Central New York community’s concerns.
If the Cayugas’ application is granted, the tribe’s businesses in Seneca Falls and Union Springs would be placed into a federally tax exempt trust status. The Cayugas have two convenience stores and two closed gaming facilities located on those properties. The tribe intends to reopen the gaming facilities if the application is accepted.
When lands are taken into federal trust status for Indian governments and communities, they drop off the county and state tax rolls. The issue of money is always important and is the key factor Sen. Schumer is focused on. In fact, his biggest concern is his claim that the BIA glossed over the fiscal impact placing the land into tax-exempt trust would have on the local population, which would have to make up the difference.
“The (study) itself notes that the removal of the proposed trust lands would result in hits of between 0.4 percent and 2.61 percent to the tax base of the affected towns, but dismisses this change as ‘no significant adverse impact,’” Schumer said in a letter addressed to the BIA. “I believe that any county or town executive across the country would take exception to the treatment of any diminution in his tax base as insignificant; our local officials are struggling to make up for budget shortfalls and have been forced to cut services. Even a 0.01 percent change can make a real difference to them.”