The disparate impact COVID-19 has had on Indian Country reveals problems centuries in the making from the legacy of colonialism. One of those problems is state encroachment in Indian Country, including attempts to assert taxing authority within Indian Country. The issue of the reaches of state taxing authority in Indian Country has resulted in law that is both uncertain and highly complex, chilling both outside investment and economic development for tribes. As the United States emerges from COVID-19, to focus only on the toll exacted on tribes and their peoples ignores the tremendous opportunities for states to right these historical wrongs. Buoyed by federal COVID-relief funds, state and local governments are in a financial position to reframe their tax policies to promote tribal sovereignty and support economic development in Indian Country. This article argues for states to make diplomatic, responsible state and local tax policies that will create healthier intergovernmental relationships and an environment that in turn creates broader economic growth for tribes and states alike. Through policies requiring state governments to consult with tribes to make joint decisions on tax policy and by refraining from exercising taxing authority in Indian Country, states can move from a zero-sum game. Instead of competing for precious tax revenue, state and local governments can partner with tribes to expand the total amount of available revenue streams. Doing so will not just right the historical wrongs of colonialism—it could also help prevent future crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, from having such a disparate impact on tribes again.
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From Zero-Sum to Economic Partners: Reframing State Tax Policies in Indian Country in the Post-COVID Economy,
N.M. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/nmlr/vol52/iss1/3