Some misinformation has been put out to our tribal community in regard to an ongoing lawsuit in Tribal Court about a fuel tax. The Colville Business Council wishes to provide you with facts.
FACT -The fuel tax compact the Colville Tribes has with the State of Washington results in a sizeable portion of the fuel tax the State collects on non-tribal members coming to the Tribes to be used for road maintenance. These funds therefore benefit the entire Reservation.
FACT -Owners of individual gas stations do not pay this fuel tax. They do pay the tax up front when they buy from a distributor, but then the tax is passed on to non-tribal member consumers at the pump and is recovered by the gas station. The tax is ultimately paid by non-members who buy gasoline at pumps on the Colville Reservation.
FACT - If the state tax is not paid to the distributor by the gas station owners, but the charge for gas at the pump remains the same, the gas station owners are simply pocketing for themselves the tax that should go to the Tribes to maintain Reservation roads.
FACT -About a year ago, two gas station owners licensed by the Tribes began purchasing fuel from a distributor, Cougar Den, who does not collect or pay state fuel tax up front in violation of Colville Tribal Code. As a result, the Tribes and Washington have not been paid lawfully owed tax from these fuel stations for roughly a year.
FACT -Cougar Den is a Yakama-based company. The Supreme Court case involving Cougar Den was related to transportation fees and taxes, not to the state fuel tax. Yakama tribal law does not apply on trust land governed by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.
FACT -The Tribes attempted for months to resolve the situation with the gas station owners. The gas station owners opted to sue the Tribes and claimed the Tribes owed them over $800,000. The Tribes have not initiated a court case in this matter to date.
FACT -The gas station owners lost their fuel tax lawsuit. The fuel tax claims have been dismissed. In fact, Tribal Court has held that it has been the gas station owners who violated tribal law for the past year with their unlawful purchases of tax-free fuel from Cougar Den.
The Colville Tribes will always enforce its law. The Colville Tribes will always protect the money owed to tribal members.