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Dim future for local projects under governor’s budget

When the tribal-state gaming compacts were first negotiated back in 1999 with then-Governor Gray Davis, a special fund was created in the State Treasury called “the Indian Gaming Special Distribution Fund” (SDF).  The SDF was established to receive payments from tribes that had gaming devices prior to the signed compacts.

The money in the SDF was available for appropriation by the Legislature for a number of purposes including grants for programs designed to address gaming addiction and grants for the support of state and local government agencies impacted by tribal government gaming.

Impacted communities formed “Indian Gaming Benefit Committees” consisting of local government and tribal government representatives.  In our community in Santa Barbara County, our Indian Gaming Benefit Committee is made up of representatives from Santa Barbara County as well as Solvang city government and two representatives from our tribe, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.  Over the past few years we have worked diligently as a team to fund various programs locally – to the tune of approximately $1.3 million annually.

Unfortunately, Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget plan strips all SDF monies from the local Indian Gaming Benefit Committees, taking away the casino impact mitigation grants.  And he can do this since the compact allows for the reappropriation of funds for a number of purposes, including “any other purpose specified by law.”

The potential threat of the loss of SDF monies for much-needed funding for important projects that affect the entire community has us all worried.  Communities throughout the state have come to depend on the funds for critical projects and services that may not be funded otherwise.

Taking away the SDF from the local Indian Gaming Benefit Committee here in Santa Barbara County places the tribal funding of a deputy at the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department’s Solvang substation at risk and could potentially impact the community.
Also at risk with the loss of the SDF monies locally is the tribal funding of a firefighter/EMT at the local Santa Barbara County Fire Department station.  Again, potentially a negative impact on the entire community.

Our tribe and the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors are working together to get the SDF monies reappropriated.  The Board sent a letter to Governor Schwarzenegger outlining the significant negative impact we would experience in our community with the removal of SDF casino mitigation grants.

We are also closely watching the movement of Assembly Bill 1389, authored by Assembly member Alberto Torrico (D-Fremont), which enacts several recommendations proposed by the State Auditor relative to the allocation and use of proceeds from the Special Distribution Fund.  This bill was passed as “amended” by the Senate Governmental Organization Committee and has been referred to Senate Committee on Appropriations.

We hope that the Governor rethinks his proposed budget plan or that AB 1389 is passed by the Legislature so that the Special Distribution Fund can once again work to benefit the local communities.

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