State, tribe make deal in tax dispute
The state has signed a new deal with the Comanche Nation on its tax rate on tobacco sales.
A signed agreement was filed Wednesday with the Secretary of State's office. The tribe will receive 70 percent of all compact payment on cigarettes through the end of 2015, with the rate decreasing incrementally through 2018, when it reaches a 50-50 split.
The Comanches in November filed a lawsuit in federal court in Oklahoma City after discovering several other tribes, including the Chickasaw Nation, were receiving more favorable terms. The new compact mirrors the Chickasaw tribe's terms.
In 2012, the governor's office began renegotiating compacts with all the tribes. Some agreed to unusual stipulations, such as agreeing to a smoke-free casino, to receive a better rate. Michael McNutt, a spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin, said final details of what the Comanche Nation will do in return for the rate provided are still being worked out.
Tobacco sales provide important revenue to tribes, with funds used for essential services.
Two other tribes whose compact terms were in dispute are headed back to the negotiation table. A three-member arbitration panel on Dec. 27 ruled in favor of the state in cases involving the Absentee Shawnee and Wichita and Affiliated tribes. Those tribes are on non-compact status until a new deal can be worked out.
Twenty-five of the state's 38 tribes have signed compacts, including the Comanches.
JENNIFER PALMER, STAFF WRITER