Reps. Torres, Kildee, and Kilmer Highlight How Republican Tax Plan Ignored Indian Country
WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Norma J. Torres (CA-35), Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05) and Congressman Derek Kilmer (WA-06) hosted a press call with reporters on the impacts of the Republican tax plan on Indian Country today, Tuesday, December 19, 2017.
Rep. Torres stated, “In his inauguration speech, the President stated that ‘what truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people…. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.’ Instead of honoring these words, the President and my Republican colleagues went to work around the clock on a bill that gives $1.5 TRILLION dollars to appease their wealthy donors and the President's real estate and corporate interests. The bill we voted on represents a broken promise to the forgotten citizens of this Nation. Among those forgotten citizens are our first peoples – Native Americans.”
Earlier this month, Congresswoman Torres and Congressmen Kildee and Kilmer, along with 35 other Members of Congress, sent a letter to the U.S. Representatives and Senators serving on the conference committee concerning Indian Country. The letter urged the committee to recognize the unique sovereignty of tribal governments in regards to tax-exempt bonds, the Indian Adoption Tax Credit, Excise Tax Exemptions and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits.
Congresswoman Norma Torres currently serves as the Ranking Member on the Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs Subcommittee on the House Committee on Natural Resources, the subcommittee which oversees all matters regarding Native Americans.
A copy of the letter and full list of Members who signed is below:
Dear Chairman Hatch, Ranking Member Wyden, Chairman Brady and Ranking Member Neal:
We write to you today with disappointment in the failure of Republicans to include tribal governments in either the House or the Senate versions of their tax bill. As the conference process proceeds, we urge you to consider the needs of Indian Country in the final bill.
The federal tax code does not recognize the unique sovereignty of tribal governments and as a result, tribes do not enjoy the same benefits as state and local governments under the tax code. To correct this mistreatment of tribal governments in the tax code, Indian Country spent almost two years educating the House and the Senate on the need for their equitable tax treatment.
The Senate had several opportunities, both in committee markups and through proposed floor amendments, to fix the issue of tribal taxation in the tax bill. Yet it inexplicably failed to do so. And now tribes are told that yet again, they must wait for some future work on tax reform. This is completely unacceptable.
Indian Country has some of the poorest communities in our country. Tribal communities have long endured high levels of poverty and substandard housing, reduced employment opportunities and economic development, and tremendous infrastructure demands. Not addressing these issues in the tax code is wrong and unjust.
We urge the Conference Committee include in its final bill the following provisions:
- 1. Parity for Tax-Exempt Bonds: As sovereign nations, tribal governments should possess the authority to use tax-exempt bonds the same as state and local governments. Right now, tribal governments are limited to using tax-exempt bond financing for “essential government functions.” But by preventing a tribe from utilizing tax-exempt bonds for economic development activities will only prevent much needed tribal infrastructure development and economic growth.
- 2. Parity for Indian Adoption Tax Credit: Under current tax law, tax credits for families that adopt special needs children are only available for adoptions in state courts, not in tribal courts. Tax credits should be available to families that adopt special needs children, regardless of the adoption venue.
- 3. Parity for Excise Tax Exemptions: Again, as sovereign nations, tribal governments should receive the same treatment as state and local governments for the various excise tax exemptions that exist in the tax code.
- 4. Increase Deployment of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits in Indian Country: The reconciled bill should treat tribes as states for these credit allocations. It should also create a tribal set-aside and allow Indian areas to be eligible for enhanced credits as significant levels of substandard housing exist throughout Indian Country.
The undersigned Members request the conferees reconsider the failure to address the unique needs of Indian Country. It is vital that a tax bill that provides additional wealth to those that already have the most should also ensure that tribal governments can benefit from the supposed economic benefits that will result from its passage.
Thank you for your consideration.
Nanette Diaz Barragán
Ben Ray Lujan
Michelle Lujan Grisham
Debbie Wasserman Schultz