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January 16, 2019

1/2/2019 10:26:00 AM
Faking poverty

Really, Allan? “The Ghost of Sandy Stokes” as a subhead in your lengthy essay in last week’s paper?
While lamenting the Swinomish government’s inability to tax more people you didn’t mention that the tribe’s government budget is around $50 million per year.
The tribe already imposes taxes on the non-tribal members who are also paying to lease the reservation land under their homes.
According to the 2016 annual report that Swinomish published, money allocated to the tribe’s government totaled $49,871,072 – millions of it funded by taxpayers in the form of federal and state grants.
I don’t have this year’s figures on the amount Swinomish directs to its government operations and I have no information on the actual size of the tribe’s business income. Just like private corporations, tribal governments are not subject to public disclosure laws.
But at nearly $50 million, the tribe’s 2016 government budget dwarfed the town and school district budgets and rivaled the Skagit County government’s general fund.
This year the town of La Conner expects to take in a total of $5.7 million while the school district hopes to collect just under $12 million.
Though tribal lawyers selectively spin facts, landowners in the La Conner School District know exactly how much their property tax bills rose in 2015.
A newspaper investigation that included several public records requests filed with the state, produced documentation that tribal attorneys worked with unelected Department of Revenue employees after the Great Wolf decision to help craft and edit the department’s tax policy advisory.
Documentation and the department’s own responses to questions demonstrated that the state’s county assessors, elected to represent taxpayers, were afforded fewer opportunities to participate than the tribal representatives.
Sandy Stokes
La Conner

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