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(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) spoke with tribal leaders at a meeting in Washington, D.C. about the President’s inadequate budget for tribal programs and the victories that many tribes are winning on economic development.

Senator Murray mentioned leaders from the Tulalip Tribes, Colville Confederated Tribes, and the Puyallup Tribe in her remarks to the National Indian Gaming Association. She also spoke about President Bush’s budget for Fiscal Year 2005, which was released last week.

“The President’s budget is bad news for Indian Country, and the impact will be felt in tribal hospitals and clinics, in classrooms, and in tribal services,” Murray said. “You deserve better, and I will continue to fight on the Budget and Appropriations Committees to meet the needs throughout Indian Country.”

Murray also shared examples of how tribes in Washington state are supporting jobs, roads, and community services beyond their borders.

“Throughout my state, Tribal businesses are transforming their communities,” Murray said. “My state has the 4th highest unemployment rate in the nation, but because of your work tribal businesses are creating good-paying jobs in rural areas and tribal communities.”

Murray concluded, “I’m proud to be your partner here in the United States Senate, and I know that by working together, we ensure that tribes get the respect and the support they deserve.”

Senator Murray’s remarks follow:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, [Ernest Stevens, National Indian Gaming Association] for that kind introduction. I’m honored to be here this morning.

I’d like to extend a special welcome to my good friend from the Tulalip Tribes, Chairman Herman Williams. I want to welcome two council members from the Colville Confederated Tribes: Lou Anderson, and Jeanne Jarred. I also want to welcome Frank Bean, Sr. from the Puyallup Tribe.

I know you’ve all traveled a long way to be here in the Capitol. The truth is that we really need you here to stand up for the unmet needs throughout Indian Country.

Tribes Promote Economic Development

I want to thank you for all the work you do to promote economic development in Indian Country – and I want to congratulate you on your success. I’ve seen the impact you’re having. Throughout my state, Tribal businesses are transforming their communities. Gaming revenues have allowed tribes to expand their services to tribal members, invest in real estate and natural resources, and bring new wholesale and retail options to underserved areas.

Most notably, tribal businesses are putting people to work. My state has the 4th highest unemployment rate in the nation, but because of your work -- tribal businesses are creating good-paying jobs in rural areas and tribal communities.

I know that the benefits of your success extend far beyond your boundaries. In Washington state, for example, tribal businesses contribute more than $1 billion to the state’s economy every year. Throughout my state, gaming revenues are being reinvested in local communities to support everything from parks, to roads, to schools and museums.

Just last year, the Tulalip Tribes made a $1 million donation to the Snohomish County Boys and Girls Club. That is a remarkable investment, and that’s just one example of what tribes are doing.

On the eastern side of our state, the Kalispel Tribe uses its gaming revenues to fund the Camas Institute. It’s a non-profit organization that combines the Tribe’s vision for education, employment training, community involvement and substance abuse treatment. It provides services to both tribal members and non-members.

Challenges

Despite your many achievements, we still have challenges to face. That’s why I’m excited to see so many of you here to educate Congress about the issues affecting your communities and your businesses. Your timing could not be better.

President Bush’s Budget Will Not Meet Tribal Needs

As you know, last week the President sent Congress his budget proposal for the next fiscal year. On issue after issue, the President’s budget comes up short. While I have many concerns with this budget, I’m particularly disappointed that this Administration again has refused to fund tribal programs and services at their level of need. And this budget is deceptive.

I’ve been doing this long enough to know that this budget is not what it appears to be. When you look at the budget, you’ll see minor increases in some tribal programs and cuts in others, but don’t let anyone tell you it will meet the needs.

When you add in inflation, the growing needs, and the fact that we are so far behind our obligations, the President’s budget is bad news for Indian Country. And the impact will be felt in tribal hospitals and clinics, in classrooms, and in tribal services.

You deserve better, and I will continue to fight on the Budget and Appropriations Committees to meet the needs throughout Indian country. Your Senators and your Members of Congress need to hear from you. They need to understand the impact that the President’s budget will have on your family and your communities. Before I go, let me briefly mention two issues that I know you’re concerned about.

PACT Act

The first is the PACT Act [Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act, S.2007]. I know many of you are concerned about efforts in the House to rewrite the tribal provisions. We worked hard in the Senate to fix this bill. I should add that we got great technical assistance from Washington state’s Attorney General’s office.

I know the bill that passed the Senate wasn’t perfect, but it addressed the concerns expressed by tribal leaders and tribal business executives. I hope that the House doesn’t go down this path, but if they do, I will work with my colleagues in the Senate to see that our bill is preserved during the conference committee.

Transportation Needs in Indian Country

A second issue is the 6-year highway transportation bill, which is being debated in the Senate right now. It’s critical that the tribal provisions be protected, and hopefully enhanced in conference. Improvements in transportation and infrastructure are a critical component to economic development in tribal communities and rural areas across the country.

I’m very proud that over the years I’ve been able to secure transportation funding for tribes in my state, but we must also be sure that our nation’s transportation policy meets the needs of Indian Country.

For many tribes, the years since Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act have been nothing short of remarkable. Gaming has been the catalyst of change -- bringing new opportunities and new jobs to tribal communities.

At the same time, your success has given rise to those who would like to restrict your ability to exercise your rights as sovereign governments. I think they’re wrong, and I will continue to support you and your efforts to improve the lives of your tribal members. So thank you for bringing economic development to your communities and beyond. And thank you for coming to Washington, D.C. to stand up for your tribal members back home.

I’m proud to be your partner here in the United States Senate, and I know that by working together, we ensure that tribes get the respect