Schwarzenegger - Tribes May Thaw Out Relations
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
October 9, 2003
SACRAMENTO - Arnold Schwarzenegger and California's Indian tribes continued to circle each other yesterday, although there were signs that each may be looking to cool the heated rhetoric they traded during the recall campaign.
Schwarzenegger said during his first post election news conference that he wants to meet with tribes as soon as possible. "Many are still smarting at the governor-elect's use of Indian gambling as a foil to help him win Tuesday's election. " During the campaign,
Schwarzenegger declined an invitation to meet with the state's powerful gaming tribes. He then unleashed a television ad that portrayed them as a special-interest group that doesn't pay its "fair share" to the state.
Tribes dumped more than $12 million on the recall campaign, largely on behalf of Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock of Thousand Oaks. The tribes also fired back with an anti-Schwarzenegger ad of their own.
"As soon as I get into office ... I will sit down with the Indian gaming tribes and start working together with them so we can figure out ways of getting additional funds and for them to participate and help work out good compacts," Schwarzenegger said yesterday during a packed news conference at the Century Plaza
Hotel in Los Angeles. "We are in a financial crisis now, and I want them to participate."
The state's 53 Indian casinos have quickly become a political and economic force. They are believed to be making more than $5 billion a year and have enabled tribes to become aggressive political players. Over the past five years, they have pumped more than $135 million into campaigns.
Davis enraged the tribes when, without warning, he asked them for an additional $1.5 billion a year to help close the state's $38 billion budget deficit. He later reduced his request to $680 million, but most tribes say "that is still unrealistic."
California tribes now pay about $140 million a year into two separate state funds. Most of the money - nearly $100 million - was redistributed this year to small-and non-gaming reservations.
Schwarzenegger has said he would like for tribes to pay 25 percent of their net win But he conceded late in the campaign that any new revenue-sharing arrangement will have to be negotiated.
Senate President Pro Tempore John Burton, a San Francisco Democrat and tribal ally, said Schwarzenegger will have a difficult time getting much more from Indian casinos. "After attacking them and using them as one of the key issues (in the recall), I think it's going to be tough to ask them for more money," Burton said.
Some local Indian leaders are leery of what the future holds under the new governor. "He came out and basically threw the gauntlet on the table and
told us what he was going to do to us," said San Pasqual tribal Chairman Allen Lawson. "I have no idea how to work with Mr. Schwarzenegger.
"We would hope that what he put in the paper is not his true attitude, because if it is, we're headed for a bumpy road."
Lawson and other tribal leaders noted that most of their compacts are good for 17 more years. Although some tribes want more slot machines, none is compelled to strike a new deal with the incoming governor.
"His commercials make it sound like tribes are giving nothing, and it's not true," said Brandie Taylor, vice chairwoman of North County's Santa Ysabel band. Her tribe signed one of the new compacts with Davis last month.
Taylor said Schwarzenegger needs "to be educated on issues such as sovereignty and tribal government . . . because he seems to feel like we're just businesses and corporations."
Individual tribal members pay income taxes, but Indian tribes are governments, and no government can tax
"We're sovereign nations just like the state of California," Pala tribal Chairman Robert Smith said. "He needs to be educated about how tribes came to be, and (that) they were here before anybody else."
Many tribal leaders are wary of Schwarzenegger because one of his key advisers is former Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican who battled to restrict Indian gaming in the state throughout most of the 1990s.
La Jolla tribal Chairwoman Wendy Schlater, whose North County tribe operates the state's smallest casino - a 30-machine slot arcade - said Schwarzenegger need not be an adversary.
Sycuan tribal Chairman Danny Tucker said casinos, taxes and sovereignty aren't the only Indian issues the new governor needs to understand. He will have to learn about the state's criminal jurisdiction on reservations, and other aspects of complex federal laws and legal rulings concerning the status of tribes.