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Supposed "Tea Party candidate" threatens to shut down Indian casino if it doesn't pay the state more money

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In another example of how the Republican Party has taken over the Tea Party movement and mutilated it to stand for non-conservative values, the GOP candidate for Governor of New York, Carl Paladino, has threatened, if elected, to cut off access roads to the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, NY if the Oneida Indian Nation which owns it doesn't pay more taxes to the state-- thus shutting it down.

The Turning Stone Casino is located in an economically depressed region which has watched numerous jobs disappear as factories have either gone out of business or moved to other states, or overseas. Surrounded by very few other businesses, the secluded casino and hotel thrives, hosting professional boxing matches, big name comedians, singers, and even PGA golf tournaments...attracting people from all over the world.

The issue of the Oneida Indian Nation and taxes has been a controversial one in the area for years. Along with the casino, the Oneidas own a number of gas stations that local business owners say are difficult to compete with since they themselves pay high taxes while the Oneidas pay virtually none. In 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Oneidas had to pay property taxes, however a panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2010 that even though the tribe might owe taxes, it can't be taken to court because it's sovereign . That means that while the state has the right to demand the tribe pay up, it lacks the legal ability to actually take them to court in order to collect.

The Oneidas did agree, however, to pay taxes from 2005 to 2010 in light of the first ruling. In 2008 they worked out a deal with the federal government allowing it to take 13,000 acres of the their 17,000 acres of land into trust, making the businesses on that land immune to state and local taxes. The appeal ruling applies to the 4000 acres remaining.

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But if Paladino managed to cut off access to the casino and prevented people from getting to it, that would make the question of collecting taxes from it moot.

Rather than looking at the success of the casino as an example of what can be accomplished when the government keeps its hands off of a business's earnings, the debate in Central New York is usually framed as one of whether or not the Oneidas are owed their tax status because of past wrongs done to Native Americans vs. whether or not the tribe keeping its money from a corrupt state government is fair to local residents who have no legal means to do the same. Hardly is it ever suggested that Central New Yorkers be offered the same deal (or something close to it) as the Oneidas in order to compete.

Here's what makes Paladino's threat so amazing-- not only does shutting down a business that directly employs nearly 5000 people, (along with another 5000 whose jobs Turning Stone supports) lack common sense economically, but it also rejects the basic conservative values that the Tea Party espouses. Indeed, one can't run on a platform of limited government while at the same time threatening to use its big stick against a thriving business in order to demand more revenue for a failing state. Paladino has said nothing of how his plan would replace the jobs lost if the casino were closed.

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Other than a few minimum wage paying retail stores and fast food restaurants, jobs in Central New York are few and far between, especially during an orchestrated depression with no end in sight. The Governor shaking down one of the few real employers in the region for more money to mismanage will do nothing for the people of Central New York other than provide a hollow victory for those who think that everyone should be in the same boat as them-- being robbed by a state that continually offers less while taking more. The real solution is not holding a gun to the Oneidas' heads but to closing the government's opened hand and making the region one that actually promotes prosperity for all citizens, letting them keep their own money and seeking equality by lifting everyone up rather than dragging successful people down.

Paladino is not a real conservative. He's simply another GOP opportunist riding the waves of popular dissent, hoping they can carry him far enough to pull himself up into the governor's chair.


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Andrew Steele is the editor of America 20xy-- an independent news service that highlights articles from around the web focusing on international and economic policy, and human rights abuses. The mission statement for the page is a quote from Thomas (more...)

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