I’m on vacation this week, but I heard from afar that Gov. Butch Otter has signed into law HB 249a, the tribal fuel tax bill. This is the measure that some thought he’d veto, imposing a Dec. 1 deadline on his negotiations with Idaho Indian tribes over fuel taxes. Under the bill, if tribes haven’t reached agreements with the governor by that date, they lose, and the state imposes its state fuel tax on reservation sales. Several tribes have indicated they’ll sue if that happens; they’ve won all the past court fights on that issue. Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, chairman of the Idaho Indian Affairs Council, appealed unsuccessfully to the governor last week to veto the bill. “I went down personally and asked him,” Jorgenson said. “He gave it some serious thought, he took pause. … Then he said, ‘No, Mike, I can’t do that.’ … I didn’t get the sale made.”
Jorgenson was disappointed, saying in his view, the measure’s deadline is just 30 days before lawmakers are back in session anyway and could address the issue. Said Jorgenson, “I don’t think that’s worth the message it sends, (regarding) the relations with the tribes.”
Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.
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