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CAG Opposes City-SMSC agreement. Wes Mader makes statement to Scott County Board.

CAG Opposes City-SMSC agreement. Wes Mader makes statement to Scott County Board.

January 20, 2015
I’m speaking for the Steering Committee of Citizens for Accountable Government. Our concern is the expressed intent of the Shakopee Mdewankaton Sioux Community, SMSC, to transfer more land into tax-free Trust. To us it doesn’t make sense for Scott County taxpayers to pay more, so that SMSC members with million dollar incomes, can pay nothing.

For a significant number of years, the City Councils of Shakopee and Prior Lake, and the County Board, all unanimously opposed the idea that the SMSC needs more tax free land, for obvious reasons:
(1) The SMSC doesn’t need more land in Trust to achieve “economic self-sufficiency” .
(2) They currently have more than enough land in Trust to build needed homes in the foreseeable future, like the 700 to 800 acres they got last time that hasn’t been built on.
(3) Removal of more developable land from our tax base will increase the financial burden on those who pay the taxes, to provide City, County, and School District services to all residents, including SMSC members.
(4) Private investment for commercial enterprise dries up when it has to compete with business ventures on Trust land, that are exempt from all local and state tax.

As late as October 2005, our City Councils and the County Board declared to the BIA in writing, that Fee-to-Trust transfer was “by far, the most significant policy issue the Cities and Scott County have faced in the past, and must address-now and in the future”, and they weren’t alone in those beliefs. They were joined in their opposition by members of both the US House and Senate, by members of both the Minnesota House and Senate, by two Minnesota Governors, and even the Mayor of St. Paul. These were Republicans, Democrats, and Independent. But most important, let’s not forget that the BIA itself on repeated occasions, agreed with the Cities and the County in strongly worded statements.

Unfortunately in late 2005, the coalition of Scott County, Prior Lake, and Shakopee fell apart, with each entity trying to cut their own deals with the SMSC. The result was inevitable. The SMSC got an additional 700 to 800 acres of Trust land.

The three of you who have spoken to me regarding this issue have acknowledged that the SMSC is aggressively buying up more developable land, that they will try to place all of it into Trust, and that you believe it is wrong. But I also sense that you feel opposition to the SMSC is a lost cause. Of course it is, if you throw in the towel without a murmur. You certainly all know that quietly sitting on the sidelines represents a solid endorsement, or worse an invitation, for SMSC to buy up all the developable property they can get their hands on, with expectations of placing it into Trust.

Based upon data included in the agenda report prepared by the Prior Lake City Staff, the loss in local tax revenue (City, County, and School Board) if the SMSC application is approved, is estimated as $ 1.25 million per year. Now multiply that by a factor of 10, for the other land waiting in the wings to be transferred to tax-free status.

It seems to me that each of you was elected to do the right thing for residents of Scott County, not the easy thing. It’s either right, or it’s wrong, for the families of 140,000 County residents to have to pay higher taxes, so that a handful of millionaires won’t have to pay any. It’s not that hard to figure out.

I understand your concern about getting into a court battle with a cash-rich Tribe. But it costs essentially nothing to inform the BIA that you oppose more land going into Trust. If you can’t or won’t do that much, then at least have the courage to stand up and tell your tax-paying constituents that you have no problem with them paying more, in order to help out the SMSC. Please don’t hide behind the wall of silence.

Citizens for Accountable Government
Wes Mader, Chair