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December 1, 2013

Compact Negotiations-Revenue Sharing with the State of Michigan

by leroywandahsega

I was reading an article on Compact Negotiations with the State of Michigan and how they are seeking a revenue sharing plan with the 6 remaining tribes. I was honored to represent Hannahville Indian Community (Pottawatomie) during our first agreement with the State of Michigan. Although I still disagree with the concept of the Federal Government telling tribes who they must make agreements with on any issue it was an interesting process to be involved with and I am thankful for the engaging opportunity.

It is sad to know that these tribes must come with a revenue-sharing plan with an outside body that has no ownership interest what so ever and we still have not conceded any real profit sharing with the members for which it was intended.

Our reservation distributes to each member 250 per month, irregardless of revenue. This equates to roughly 2.8 million annually for the membership.

On the other hand our current compact requires a mandatory 2%  revenue- share distribution to local units of government (which is now done through the tribe, but the state wants to take over this function in its initial proposal). This number fluctuates somewhat but generally is around 1.3 million. I was always agreeable with giving back to the local units purely because the largest portion of our revenue is generated from that population base.

Our initial compact agreement with the state was 2% to local government units and 8% to the State or any corporation in designated to receive those funds. The state soon there after violated the compact and the 7 tribes were no longer obligated to pay the 8%.

Now that the compact has matured we (now 6 tribes) must now renegotiate with the State for new terms. Although it is unclear whether the compact expires or not the state has already proposed a 4-8 % revenue share plan with the remaining tribes.

Here is the rub for me as an individual tribal member. If the State is going to receive a fixed percentage of revenue then why not the member also. Shouldn’t we be entitled to at least 10% of our own revenue. When are we going to be included in this sharing plan?

Some of my own leadership is under the assumption that we have to earn these payments and are “lucky” to get what we are getting. I disagree with that thinking. I was fortunate enough to get involved with this process from the beginning and that is not what our elders had in mind. The prevailing attitude was to pay our members, especially those who lived within the boundaries of the reservation.

I believe before we negotiate any further with the state of Michigan or promise another dollar to an outside force that put no blood, sweat or tears into our businesses that we think of ourselves first for a change and give a guaranteed percentage of the revenue to the member for which it was intended. And I ¬†am not referring to another “social program” meant to benefit the member but ends up as payroll and retirement for those it was not intended.

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