©2017 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana

Why is it that representatives seemingly start out with the best of intentions, but when solving a problem they often end up creating new problems with their solution to the first problem?  Why is it that the “solution” chosen does not get at the core of the problem?

We saw this happen with Steve Daine’s bill S.3014, proposing to fix the “environmental lawsuit” problem (created by Congress) by turning management of our public lands over to tribes.

So we have to ask, is Representative Greg Hertz ( R-HD12) fixing any problems with his latest proposed legislation?  HB605, scheduled for a hearing in the House Taxation Committee on 03/23/17  proposes:

A BILL FOR AN ACT ENTITLED: “AN ACT PROVIDING FINANCIAL BENEFITS TO CERTAIN BUSINESSES; PROVIDING TAX BENEFITS TO A NEW OR EXPANDED BUSINESS ON OR ADJACENT TO A MONTANA INDIAN RESERVATION; PROVIDING A TAX CREDIT FOR A PORTION OF GROSS WAGES PAID BY A NEW OR EXPANDED BUSINESS ON OR ADJACENT TO A MONTANA INDIAN RESERVATION, WITH AN INCREASED AMOUNT FOR EMPLOYING AN ENROLLED MEMBER OF A TRIBE OR A VETERAN; PROVIDING FOR A SMALL BUSINESS INVESTMENT TAX CREDIT; REVISING THE BIG SKY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM; PROVIDING RULEMAKING AUTHORITY; AMENDING SECTIONS 90-1-201 AND 90-1-204, MCA; AND PROVIDING AN APPLICABILITY DATE AND A TERMINATION DATE.”

A pdf version of the complete bill can be found at this link.

When queried about this bill, Representative Hertz confirmed that his goal was to help individual tribal members and take the burden off of county governments by encouraging new business in the community.  While noble in intent, it does nothing to fix the PROBLEM.

There is no doubt that many areas of Montana are suffering economically, and tribal unemployment rates throughout the state are at horrific levels.  The easy answer is to throw money at the problem, without ever fixing the problem itself.

So what is the problem?

Let us begin by telling what isn’t the problem.  The problem is not lack of money.

Why are individual tribal members suffering at all?  Seven Montana tribes, through more than 80 different “tribal” corporations, received a combined total of $4 billion dollars in federal money over the past 8 1/2 years. Source:  USAspending.gov

The almost uniform failure of Tribal governments—their tribal councils–to actually address the needs of their tribal members, lifting them out of poverty, encouraging land stewardship, private enterprise, and financial independence, is a testament to the failure of “throwing money” at the Tribes and trusting them to actually take care of their own tribal members.

Montana is also on the “feed the tribal corporations” bandwagon.  Over a three to four year period, Montana paid 8 tribes, including the Little Shell band which is not even a federally recognized tribe, a combined total of $212 million or nearly 1/4 of a billion dollars, mostly for social programs such as health, housing and education. Source:  http://transparency.mt.gov/

More than $30 million of Montana expenditures to tribes consisted of “revenue sharing agreements”, agreements where the state acts as the taxation arm for the tribal corporations and then forwards the money to them:

Amount Revenue Sharing Agreement (2014-2016)
$  1,474,000 Alcohol
$14,714,000 Tobacco
$12,379,000 Gasoline
$  1,826,000 TERO (Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance)
$30,393,000 Total MT Revenue Sharing Agreements with Tribes

Source:  http://tribalnations.mt.gov/trreports

Tribal unemployment rates and other indicators absolutely show that individual tribal members don’t benefit from the federal and state government largess that is heaped upon Montana’s “tribal corporations.”

So let’s ask the question:  Exactly what are the tribal elite doing with all that money, and why isn’t it helping their people? Instead it appears simply to be expanding the wealth of “tribal corporations,” and enabling the hefty contribution of bribes money to federal and state lawmakers for the purpose of acquiring even more money and expanding tribal jurisdiction over non-members.

Do state or federal officials ever audit or verify that the funds provided to the tribes are spent for the purposes intended, or to see if such expenditures effectively address the problems the money was intended to solve, or is all of this money just going into an endless tribal government black hole?

So where IS all of that money going?

In HB605, local representative Greg Hertz attempts to fix a problem without taking a serious look at what is really going on with Montana tribes.  In other words, tax credits are not the answer to unemployment, drug abuse, or poverty.  How about our federal and state representatives consider shedding light onto what Montana tribal corporations are doing with all their money before throwing more at them? Might this daylight actually help individual tribal members as well as the taxpayers of the state of Montana?

Here is the reality and gravity of our situation in western Montana:

The pages of this blog are full of factual examples of the aggression of our local “tribal” corporation and the state’s willingness to cede its water, the rights of its citizens, and the laws and constitutional frameworks upon which citizens rely.  Why in the world would any business that has done its own due diligence want to open a business anywhere near Pablo Montana?  And by what authority, law, or legal rule does state give taxpayer money to Tribes or businesses that hire tribal members off the reservation?

While the “goal” of this bill might have been to “initiate discussion” about the issues, we should be “happy” that the state has no additional money right now, especially for more tax credits benefiting Tribal members at the expense of other state citizens. Because in a “flush” year, this bill would pass no questions asked, which again underscores our representatives’ obtuse attitude to knowing how to craft solutions that actually work instead of kicking the can down the road at the expense of Montana taxpayers.

Proposing bills to start a conversation is not a proper way to provide representation for Montanans.  This mechanism relies on emotional arguments that can be used to “guilt” other uninformed legislators to fund everything tribal, regardless of reality and the law.

Bills such as this mean we must forever be vigilant in our efforts to expose what is going on with legislation related to tribes in the state of Montana, particularly bills that serve to enrich “tribal corporations” while their members languish under the weight of bloated tribal governments along with the rest of us.

State and Federal leaders can begin to solve these problems by taking an honest look at the flawed system and Indian policies that have created them in the first place.

Instead of throwing more money at the problem, someone needs to follow the money that’s already out there!

Advertisements