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State gas taxes undermine tribal revenue

NCAI 11 (NATIONAL CONGRESS OF AMERICAN INDIANS “SENATE COMMITTEE ON INDIAN AFFAIRS HEARING: Oversight hearing on tribal transportation: Paving the way for Jobs, Infrastructure,

and Safety in Native Communities”, September 15,

Faced with a severe inadequacy of funding from federal and state sources, tribal governments have looked for other sources of revenue, including levying their own motor fuel taxes. While tribes have the same authority as other governments to collect taxes, the ability of tribes to tax fuel on tribal lands has been severely diminished by the Supreme Court. The Court has upheld the authority of the states to reach onto tribal land to collect a state motor fuel tax. The dual taxation that would result if both states and tribes impose a motor fuel tax makes it impractical for tribes to generate revenue through motor fuel taxes. Although some tribes and states have been able to negotiate motor fuel tax revenue- sharing agreements, those cases are the exception rather than the rule. In most areas, the state governments’ collection of motor fuel taxes in Indian country displaces the ability of tribal governments to collect motor fuel taxes.

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