By ef mouss
The Federal Highway Construction programexpires Sept. 30; as does the 18.4 cents a gallon federal gasoline tax and the 24.4 cents a gallon diesel tax that pay for much of the program.
Failure to pass legislation to re-authorize and fund highways and air travel could result in a loss of millions of jobs across the Nation which includes the Indian Reservation Roads (IRR) program – the major contributor to the road construction in the Creek Nation . Congress has been willing to re-authorize the program; however, major disagreements in the details remain.
The program has been limping along for two years under a series of short-terms extensions and money infusions from the general treasury. Congress has been unable to figure out how to either raise enough money to pay for road, bridge, transit and other transportation programs, or to cut back spending in those areas, as the funding source which is fuel tax revenues decline.
For the first time Congress began authorizing Indian participation in the Highway Trust Fund through ICETEA, then SAFETEA-LU in 2005 for transportation programs and projects. Congress clarified the participation in the highway trust fund for Oklahoma tribes with specific language:
‘‘(ii) TRANSPORTATION FACILITIES INCLUDED IN THE
INVENTORY.—For purposes of identifying the tribal transportation system and determining the relative transportation needs among Indian tribes, the Secretary shall include, at a minimum, transportation facilities that are eligible for assistance under the Indian reservation roads program that a tribe has requested, including facilities that—
‘‘(I) were included in the Bureau of Indian
Affairs system inventory for funding formula purposes in 1992 or any subsequent fiscal year;
‘‘(II) were constructed or reconstructed with
funds from the Highway Trust Funds (other than
the Mass Transit Account) under the Indian reservation roads program since 1983;
‘‘(III) are owned by an Indian tribal government;
‘‘(IV) are community streets or bridges within
the exterior boundary of Indian reservations,
Alaska Native villages, and other recognized
Indian communities (including communities in
former Indian reservations in Oklahoma) in which the majority of residents are American Indians or Alaska Natives;
As candidates for various Creek Nation political offices speak of the need for ‘growth and prosperity via economic growth’, it is clear that we have missed a golden opportunity to take advantage of the massive amounts of funds which have come through the Creek Government’s Treasury since funding began to flow. Look at the economic impact that the State of Oklahoma and local municipalities receive from local sales taxes generated, income taxes, permit and user fees, etc.The Creek Government is nothing but a welfare recipient making transfer payments to local contractors. Everyone benefits but the Creeks. Creek roads were not improved; whereas the State benefits by using Federal funds allocated for Indian owned roads on State roads. Most road improvements using Creek allocated funds are the State’s responsibility. To make matters worse, no Road maintenance funds presently come into Oklahoma! However, all other Indian roads in the US receive road maintenance funds.
The question you must ask yourself, “Does the Creek Nation benefit from using these funds on State roads when the money was targeted by Congress for use on Indian owned roads?” Ask your self this question when you go to the community center, hospital, clinic, or other tribal facility, the next time when the street, parking lot, or other transportation facility needs improvement.
And do not be surprised if Congress cuts funding on this “double-dipping” as has been a concern by the FHWA and the Indian Reservation Roads Tribal Advisory Committee.
Mr. Mouss served with the U.S. Congress’ American Indian Policy Commission; Creek Nation Housing Authority Commissioner; First Election Board for the Creek Nation; Adjct Prof Univ of Okla and Okla St Univ; Tribal Co-chair for PL 93-638 Federal Negotiated Rule-Making Committee; Federal Chair for the Contract Support Work Group; Director for Information Resource Mgmt/IHS/HHS; Chief Self-Determination Services/Interior; Chair Okla and Nat’l Indian Health Board, numerous National Tribal/Federal Taskforces and Work groups, Creek Interpreter-Okfuskee Cty Dist. Court.