Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Senate OKs Indian Fuel Tax Alternative

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Senate OKs Indian Fuel Tax Alternative

Article excerpt

A proposal to allow tribes to keep most of the state tax on fuel sold at tribal-owned stations was approved Tuesday by the state Senate.

Sen. Dick Wilkerson, D-Atwood, offered the proposal as a floor substitute for House Bill 2818, which originally dealt with state officers' salaries.

The amended bill represents an alternative to one by Rep. Howard Cotner, D-Altus and chairman of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. Cotner's bill would provide state motor fuel tax rebates to Indians who buy from stations owned by the same tribe, while ensuring that all other customers pay the tax. It is hung up in House-Senate conference. Wilkerson's proposal now goes to the House, but Cotner believes it will end there because of a prodecural rule. The rule says the House can't consider "shucked" bills, which have been gutted and replaced with unrelated content. The Senate does not have a similar rule. "It's a lesson in futility," Cotner said of the Wilkerson proposal. Wilkerson's bill would provide that fuel sales by Indian tribes not be subject to state taxation if the tribal government files a declaration with the state tax commission. Under the declarations, tribes would be required to charge customers a tax equal to that charged by the state: 17 cents a gallon on gasoline and 14 cents a gallon on diesel. The tribes would send the state 6 cents per gallon of gasoline and 5 cents per gallon of diesel sold. The remainder of the tax would be kept by the tribes, who would have to use it for governmental programs including law enforcement and economic development. The Wilkerson proposal resembles the compacting option, which tribes have been pushing. The fuel tax controversy began when the Chickasaw Nation sued the Oklahoma Tax Commission over collection of fuel taxes from tribal stations. Last summer, the U.S. Supreme Court in that case ruled the state couldn't collect fuel taxes from Indian retailers. As the state looked at ways to protect its interest in collecting taxes from non-Indians who buy gasoline at tribal stations, several options arose. The state could waive the tax from Indian outlets and instead enter compacts, whereby the tribes agree to collect a portion of the tax for the state. …

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