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Arizona bill eyes creating a Native American county

February 12, 2013

State lawmakers have revived a decades-old plan to turn the Navajo and Hopi reservations into a separate county so the tribes can claim a share of state revenue.

While Arizona cities and counties get back a percentage of sales taxes the state collects from their businesses and residents, tribal governments, which are considered to have sovereignty, do not share in such tax revenue.

For more than 30 years, northern Arizona lawmakers have fought to find a way to return revenue collected on the reservations to the people living there.

Although Native Americans living and working on a reservation are exempt from many state taxes — including property taxes — the state does collect some money from businesses and residents on the reservations. Arizona gets about $16 million a year in sales-tax revenue from non-Navajo residents doing business on the reservation with a non-Navajo business. It brings in about $120,000 from the Hopi Reservation.

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