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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 14, 2009

SCHUMER, ARCURI: LOCAL COMMUNITIES AND TAXPAYER MUST HAVE BETTER PROTECTIONS AGAINST LAND INTO TRUST


Lawmakers Introduce Legislation To Ensure Any Lost Property Tax Revenue From Land Taken Into Trust Is Reimbursed By Federal Government

Schumer, Arcuri: Millions Of Dollars In Lost Property Taxes Should Not Be Made Up By Local Taxpayers

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and Representative Michael Arcuri (NY-24) today introduced legislation to ensure that counties are reimbursed for lost property tax revenue caused by any decision on the part of the federal government to take land into trust on behalf of Native American tribes in New York State. Schumer and Arcuri have both expressed their strong reservations about flaws in the land into trust process and will continue to do so. The proposed legislation is not designed to alter the land into trust process, but rather will provide residents with a baseline assurance that any future decision will not be made on the backs of taxpayers. Counties in New York State face millions of dollars in lost property tax revenue if applications are approved, and that lost revenue, under current law, will have to be made up by taxpayers; Schumer and Arcuri are working to prevent such a situation.

“I have long expressed my serious reservations about the land into trust process,” said Senator Schumer. “One of my fundamental concerns is that taking land into trust will deprive local governments of much needed revenue to pay for schools, road maintenance, and other crucial county functions, and that the gap will have to be made up by local taxpayers. This bill will ensure that counties are reimbursed for any possible property tax base loss, and provide some measure of protection against these decisions.”
“As we have seen in Oneida and Madison Counties, the primary burden of land-into-trust decisions falls on the backs of the local government and school districts,” said Congressman Arcuri, “The federal trust process must be reformed, and until it is our legislation will take the burden away from the local entities and puts it where it belongs, with the federal government that made the decision to put the land into trust and oversees Indian policy.”
 
Under the land-into-trust policy, Indian tribes that own land that is taken into trust on their behalf no longer have to pay property taxes, creating hardship and revenue loss for school districts, county and local governments. The taxes fund budgets for schools, police, fire stations, hospitals, garbage disposal, sewers, road and sidewalk maintenance, parks, libraries, and miscellaneous expenditures. The budget gap caused by the loss of that revenue may result in less comprehensive services or increased property taxes to make up the difference. Schumer and Arcuri’s bill will require the federal government to reimburse local county governments for any lost property taxes as the result of taking land into trust, ensuring that an unfair burden is not placed on the local tax payer. The law would apply to any land taken into trust after October 1st 2008.

Schumer and Arcuri said their position on the land-into-trust process has long been clear. They are skeptical of its suitability in the more populated eastern areas of the country, especially when it is opposed by a significant cross section of the community.

Schumer said: “The decision to take land into trust is a federal one, and the federal government should take responsibility to make up for the harm it can have on counties and local communities.”
 
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