Governor Stitt’s Strained Relationship with Tribal Leaders
Tribal sovereignty has become a major point of contention at the beginning of the 2024 legislative session in Oklahoma. Governor Kevin Stitt, a member of the Cherokee Nation and a Republican, has a strained relationship with tribal leaders due to ongoing legal disputes. One of the key issues is Stitt’s opposition to expanded tribal sovereignty and his criticism of the 2020 U.S. Supreme Court decision that limited state prosecutors’ jurisdiction in Indian Country.
Stitt’s Opposition to Expanded Tribal Sovereignty
In an interview with The Associated Press, Stitt expressed his opposition to expanded tribal sovereignty and his concern that tribal citizens could have an unfair advantage. He cited the possibility of the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling in favor of a Native American woman who claims she is exempt from paying state income taxes because she lives and works on a tribal reservation. Stitt emphasized that his role as governor is to represent all 4 million Oklahomans and ensure fairness in taxation.
“There’s no way I would be doing my job as governor if I said: ‘Oh, African Americans pay taxes, white people and Asians (pay taxes), but American Indians don’t,'” Stitt said. “It’s like I’m in a twilight zone having to explain this to people.”
State of the State Address and Proposed Spending Plan
Governor Stitt is scheduled to deliver his State of the State address to the Legislature on Monday. He will also release his proposed spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins on July 1. Last year, the Legislature held a special session to override the governor’s veto of a bill related to tribal tobacco sales and motor vehicle tags. This issue is expected to resurface in the current legislative session.
The recent deal reached between Governor Stitt and the Chickasaw Nation for a 10-year agreement has provided hope for improved relations between the tribes and the governor. This development is seen as a positive indication that the state and the tribes can work together, according to Senator Brent Howard, the chairman of the Joint Committee on State-Tribal Relations.
Other Key Issues for Lawmakers
Lawmakers in Oklahoma are also expected to address other important issues during this legislative session. One of the top priorities for Governor Stitt is a possible income tax cut. The House has already approved a 0.25% reduction in the rate, but Senate leaders have expressed the need to wait for final revenue numbers before making a decision on this matter.