©2017 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana

We recently mentioned the revenue sharing agreements that the state of Montana has with each of the seven tribes located within its boundaries.  Since 2006, the tribes have received more than $100 million in revenue from the state of Montana for these various agreements.  This information has proudly been reported by the Montana Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs annual reports.  Here is a one page summary of the revenue sharing agreement monies paid to Montana tribes since 2006.

While we cannot speak to all of the agreements, we would like to briefly look at one, the gasoline tax sharing agreement between the state of Montana and the CSKT.

Below is information pertaining to the amounts paid out by the state of Montana for 2016 (the numbers in red come from the state of Montana Department of Revenue office):

Lake County Population * 23,410 5,340 28,750
Lake Co Gas Tax Revenue remitted to state by distributors $2,800,000
Gas Tax Revenue remitted to the CSKT  $611,000 $611,000
Gas Tax Revenue Remitted to Lake County ** $145,000 $33,000 $178,000
Total Gas Tax Benefit $145,000 $644,000 $789,000
Per Capita $6.19 $120.60 $27.44

*   Population figures are estimates from federal census and state information. 

** This chart assumes that Lake County gas tax receipts are distributed evenly between all citizens the county serves.

How is this kind of disproportionate distribution even close to acceptable, and why is Montana collecting and remitting any tax monies to the tribes?


In a 2015 memo to the State Tribal Relations Committee, Andy Huff, counsel for the governor’s office conveyed the following:

Because the increasing complexity of jurisdictional questions within reservations, the State of Montana passed State-Tribal Cooperative Agreements Act in 1981. The authorizes to enter into cooperative agreements the provision services on for other reasons, including law Act, as originally passed 1981, contained no provisions specific to tax agreements. HB 25, 309, L. 1981. The language of the bill, however, was broad enough to encompass tax the history the bill indicates that taxes were contemplated as an area covered by the bill.

He then goes on to say:

By 1990’s there were U.S. Supreme Court decisions involving taxation motor fuel, alcohol, cigarettes, and oil and gas on Indian Reservation’s…….

…… The 1993 state legislature took the Supreme Court up on its suggestion of cooperative tax agreements, amending State-Tribal Cooperative Agreements to explicitly provide for such agreements.  Both the Montana Departments of Revenue and Justice supported amendment of the Act to explicitly authorize tax agreements and revenue sharing….As stated in the Act, “It is the goal of the legislature to prevent the possibility of dual taxation by governments while promoting local, and tribal economic development.” § 18-11-10 1 (3), Mont. Ann….

…. The Act allows a public agency to enter into an agreement with a tribal government to “assess and collect or refund any tax or license or permit fee lawfully imposts by the state or a public agency and a tribal government and ot share or refund the revenue from the assessment and collection.” § 18-11-103 (1)(b), Mont. Code Ann.

For reference, in 1993 Marc Racicot (R) was governor and Joseph Mazurek (D) was the attorney general.  It was also in 1993 that Marc Racicot signed a proclamation setting the state on the pathway to establishing sovereign “government to government” relations with the tribes.


How is it that the CSKT get more than 4 times the money, when the county has 5 times more population to support, and most of the roads to maintain?

Do such actions by the state of Montana serve to undermine local governance through their tribal government deference policies?

Does the same disproportionate situation exist for the other local governments located in the same county as the other six Montana tribes?

Why should the state of Montana collect and remit tax revenue to any tribe?

Gasoline tax was intended to be for road maintenance, and the CSKT is clearly the recipient of the lion’s share of the gasoline road tax funds for the county.   Is this inequity the reason that our roads are in such bad shape?

What is the CSKT spending their windfall on?

Can or will this PANDORA’S BOX be used to expand tribal tax windfalls to things such as agriculture property or property tax?  How about our state income tax?

What, if anything, can or should be done to correct this problem?

It appears, at least in this case, that such tribal revenue sharing agreements have succeeded in their stated goal of expanding “tribal council economic development”.  But this boon for the CSKT Corporation treasury has clearly been to the detriment of of our local county government and the services they are able to provide.

We cannot help but wonder which administrative idiot, working for the state of Montana, “negotiated” such a ridiculous, one sided, and lopsided contract with the CSKT?

Perhaps it was someone from the Montana Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission.