The incoming principal chief of the Cherokee Nation says there is a “great deal of solidarity among tribes” resolute against Gov. Kevin Stitt’s attempts to renegotiate the state’s tribal gaming compacts.
Chuck Hoskin Jr., who will be sworn in Wednesday, met Friday with the Tulsa World editorial board. In the meeting, he described the existing agreement as a “win-win” for the state and tribes that benefits all of Oklahoma.
Stitt, in an editorial published a month ago in the Tulsa World, stated the 15-year pact will expire Jan. 1 and needs to be renegotiated by the end of the year at current market rates because the industry has boomed. Contrarily, a joint letter from 29 tribal nations and the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association states the deal will automatically renew and represents promises made by the state and tribes that each must keep.
In an interview after the editorial board meeting, Hoskin said that if the state would get its fiscal house in order, then it wouldn’t be looking to tribes to bail it out of a decade’s worth of poor fiscal decisions.
“The state made decisions to cut revenue streams, and that had consequences,” he said. “That meant the state had to retreat from public education, higher education, not do what it needed to do in the area of health care and social safety nets, delay infrastructure projects — it seemed to move from one fiscal crisis to the next. I think that was bad decision-making on the part of the state.”
Baylee Lakey, communications director for Stitt, said the governor was using Friday afternoon to prepare for a move to Oklahoma City with his family.
“Since the governor raised his hand to run for office, he committed to looking at all contracts in state government with a fresh set of eyes and to ensure Oklahomans are getting a fair, market-based deal to the benefit of all 4 million residents,” Lakey said in a statement responding to Hoskin’s comments.
Hoskin said tribal nations have demonstrated that proper investment of gaming revenues in people and communities allows them to prosper and gives individuals a shot at earning a good living. He said the state has never had a better friend than the Cherokee Nation and that there must be an understanding of the positive effect the tribe has on Oklahoma.
“So we don’t need to change the formula,” Hoskin said. “I think the state just needs to change its philosophy in line with how the tribes view the role of our governments.”
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