County supervisor says Torrez Martinez Tribe owes gas taxes

An official in Imperial County, California, says the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Tribe owes millions of dollars in gas taxes to the state.

District 4 supervisor Gary Wyatt has urged the state Board of Equalization to go after the tribe. "There doesn’t seem to be any power within the state to go after them and force them to pay the money," he told Capitol Weekly.

A spokesperson for the BOE said tribes must pay taxes on the sale of gasoline to non-Indians. But the agency doesn't appear to have tried to take action against the tribe's Red Earth Travel Center.

The tribe is buying fuel from First American Petroleum, a business owned by a member of the Yakama Nation of Washington. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Yakama Treaty of 1855 allows members to bring goods to the market free of state interference.

"The states don’t like it that we have the ability to deliver fuel without any state tax,” founder and CEO Robert Ramsey told Capitol Weekly. “States always take this position until they go down that road and find out that everything we do is completely above board."

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Suppliers, competitors complain tribal fill-up has unfair advantage (Capitol Weekly 2/17)

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