Budget & Taxes
LANDLESS TRIBE SEEKING CASINO IN OK: Construction was halted on the Kialegee tribe's Red Clay Casino in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma last month after a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction in response to a lawsuit claiming the tribe doesn't have a legal right to build the gambling facility. The dispute is just one of several going on in the state and across the country that center around a federal law requiring tribes to build casinos on "Indian land."
The Kialegee, a small tribe with fewer than 500 members, has no reservation or land of its own. It is trying to build its casino on land the federal government has granted to the Muscogee Creek Nation, once a confederacy of Native American communities the Kialegee belonged to. The Kialegee tribe is hoping that historical affiliation will be sufficient to allow it to proceed.
"We have nothing," said Justina Yargee, the First Warrior of the Kialegee. "If we can get the casino going, we can afford to send kids to college and set up housing for the needy and provide medical services for the elderly."
But some residents of the affluent, conservative city of Broken Arrow, near Tulsa, oppose the casino, which led to the lawsuit, filed by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, and the subsequent injunction by U.S. Judge Gregory Frizzell in Tulsa.
The Oklahoma attorney general's office was understandably pleased with Judge Frizzell's decision.
"Some tribes have in the past started building casinos before they had determined that they have land that is OK for gaming," said spokeswoman Diane Clay. "The decision is a reminder that there are legal processes that need to be followed before gaming facilities are built."
Tribes in Arizona, California and Minnesota have run into similar difficulties recently, leading some critics to argue that the federal Indian gaming law unfairly restricts landless tribes, as well as those with reservations in rural areas seeking to build casinos in urban areas where there are more potential customers.
"Tribes should be encouraged to buy land and establish casinos that can help them gain economic self-determination," said David Wilkins, an Indian-law specialist at the University of Minnesota Law School.
Supporters of the land restriction, however, contend it helps ensure that tribes don't trample on the rights of communities that oppose casinos.
"For economic reasons, I'd much rather have a casino in Boston than in rural Oklahoma," said G. William Rice, a professor at the University of Tulsa College of Law and member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians. But he added, "there are legitimate reasons Boston might not like to have 20 tribes dropping casinos in their city."
Broken Arrow resident Jared Cawley shares that same concern.
"If the Kialegee are allowed to build the casino, it would set a bad precedent and open the door for a lot more casinos," he said. (WALL STREET JOURNAL)
BANKRUPT CA CITY NOW MODEL FOR TROUBLED STATE: When the working-class port city of Vallejo, California, about 30 miles from San Francisco, became the largest city in America to declare bankruptcy in 2008, its public services were slashed. The police force, for example, was reduced by 40 percent. In short order, the city's crime rate surged, foreclosures piled up and housing prices plunged.
But since then the city of 116,000 has reinvented itself. The police have gone high-tech, investing half a million dollars in cameras that allow officers to patrol more of the city than they ever could before, and they've deputized citizens who share tips on Facebook and Twitter. Residents have also drummed up support for neighborhood watch programs, which have swelled in number from 15 to 350. And citizen volunteers now come together every month to do cleanup work, including painting over graffiti. Additionally, in exchange for agreeing to a one-penny increase in the sales tax, residents are being given the opportunity to vote on how the money will be spent, an experiment in participatory budgeting that has never been tried in a North American city before.
"We're trying to be more innovative and risk-taking," said Marti Brown, a redevelopment worker for the state. "It's something we've been forced to do, but it's turning out to be a really positive experience for the city."
With California continuing to struggle with the recession and massive budget deficits, many of Vallejo's neighbors are now in financial trouble. The city of Stockton, for instance, is in eleventh-hour negotiations to try to avoid filing for bankruptcy.
"We're seeing a lot of cities around us that are where we were five years ago," said Stephanie Gomes, another Vallejo resident. "Some of those cities were laughing at us back then. It's nice to be on the other side of it." (WASHINGTON POST)
BUDGETS IN BRIEF: MAIN Gov. Paul LePage (R) said last week that even if voters approve four bond proposals in November authorizing $75 million in transportation spending, his administration will not issue them until the state gets its spending problem under control (BANGOR DAILY NEWS, STATE NET). • MAINE has run out of money to pay court-appointed attorneys. Attorneys will be paid for their work in the month of June after July 1, when the new fiscal year begins, according to the Indigent Legal Defense Commission (BANGOR DAILY NEWS). • VERMONT is embarking on the biggest transportation spending spree in the state's history, thanks to the $639 million transportation bill (HB 770) Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) signed last week (BURLINGTON FREE PRESS, STATE NET). • After seven hours of heated debate, the NORTH CAROLINA House passed a $20.3 billion budget bill last week (HB 950). Because House and Senate budget writers have not been working together this year, the Senate is expected to make major changes to the House plan (NEWS & OBSERVER [CHARLOTTE]). • MARYLAND Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) signed a pair of bills (SB 1301a and HB 807) passed during last month's special session shifting a portion of teacher pension costs to counties, raising income taxes on the state's top earners and undoing more than $400 million in cuts to education and other programs set to take effect because lawmakers failed to pass a revenue package during the regular session (WASHINGTON TIMES, STATE NET). • The ILLINOIS House passed legislation last week (SB 1849) that would allow a casino in Chicago. But the 69-47 margin was two votes shy of the supermajority needed to overturn an expected veto by Gov. Pat Quinn (D) (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, STATE NET). Also in ILLINOIS, lawmakers passed a package of bills, backed by Gov. Pat Quinn (D), that would make $1.6 billion in cuts to Medicaid and also hike the state's longstanding 98-cent cigarette tax by a $1 per pack to avoid even deeper cuts to the program (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, STATE NET). • KANSAS Gov. Sam Brownback (R) signed legislation last month (HB 2117) that will slash the state's income tax by roughly $3.7 billion over five years (KANSAS CITY STAR, STATE NET).
- Compiled by KOREY CLARK
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