Secretary urges change in state-tribal tax agreement

Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar has urged Gov. Jack Dalrymple and the North Dakota Legislature leaders to renegotiate a state and tribal tax agreement to give the Three Affiliated Tribes a higher percentage of the tax revenue from oil development on the Fort Berthold Reservation.

The Legislature turned down a similar request from the tribes two years ago.

Tribal officials were scheduled to meet with state lawmakers Thursday to ask for changes to the agreement, The Associated Press said.

“The inequities of this unforeseen situation has led the tribe to approach the Department of the Interior for support in amending their existing tax agreement with the state,” Salazar said in his April 10 letter to Dalrymple and other state leaders.

“While I understand and appreciate that the state is currently using a percentage of the on-reservation oil and gas tax revenue under the tax agreement to maintain on-reservation state and county roads, the tribe makes a compelling case that a larger portion of the tax revenues generated by on-reservation development should be used to maintain the major roads systems, infrastructure and public services on the reservation,” Salazar said.

Since the agreement was signed several years ago, the number of wells on the reservation has increased from one to about 700, according to The Associated Press.

North Dakota has collected $315 million, with the tribes getting $201 million, according to state Tax Department records, the AP said.

Former Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Marcus Levings and former Gov. John Hoeven signed the agreement in 2008 and agreed to a permanent extension of the accord in 2010.

Salazar who visited the Fort Berthold Reservation in October 2012, said the recent unexpected increase in oil and gas-related traffic has had a significant toll on roads on the reservation. He said he has personally traveled on these roads.

“I have seen the potential for improvements to facilitate police and fire protection, ambulance response, and safe and efficient travel for the public at large,” he said.

Salazar said he hopes the matter can be resolved by mutual agreement between the state and the Three Affiliated Tribes and that an updated agreement will equitably reflect the costs and benefits each party receives as a result of increased tax revenues generated by on-reservation development.

“Addressing these new issues through an updated tax agreement will benefit all persons living on or traveling through the Fort Berthold Reservation,” Salazar said.