Gov. Kevin Stitt might want to pull back and rethink his decision to call for the renegotiation of gaming compacts with tribal governments — this is a battle he won't win.
The sovereign tribes of Oklahoma are unified, and their message likely will be much more persuasive and successful in the court of public opinion. The tribes will be seen as integral parts of communities in every corner of the state while many in those communities are likely to see the governor as the next person looking to break a promise with the tribes.
These tribes have stepped up to the plate and made a difference since the passage of State Question 712, which authorized tribes to regulate gaming operations pursuant to these compacts. The tribes pay a percentage of the profits of these enterprises to the state as part of the 15-year agreements and have invested the remainder in most cases to establish a solid footing for economic growth.
In the interim they have become economic engines, providing jobs for thousands of tribal members and Oklahomans who are among the consumers who drive the economies of the state and nation. The tribes report $1.3 billion in fees that have gone toward public education since 2006 and $200 million directed for local roads and bridges.
There have been many instances when tribal governments have provided funding for public schools, fire departments and other government services. This funding often filled gaps left by Oklahoma lawmakers who had cut appropriations for core government services.
The Cherokee Nation recently announced it will raise minimum wage for its employees from $9.50 an hour — already higher than the state's minimum wage — to $11 an hour. Oklahoma lawmakers, on the other hand, have prohibited municipalities and county governments from establishing local minimum wages that exceed the $7.25 an hour set by Congress in 2010.
There also are significant investments being made in health care for rural communities and housing. These are things that already have had a direct impact on lives.
The risk of losing any of those things by renegotiating these gaming compacts — regardless of any big promise that might be made — is a cost many won't be willing to pay.