MARQUETTE TOWNSHIP (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder's administration is urging the federal government to reject a gas station proposed by an American Indian tribe in the Upper Peninsula because of a tax advantage over competitors.
The gas station in Marquette Township, near Marquette, could be free of certain state taxes because it would be owned by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community. The tribe could sell gas at a lower price.
"While the tribe is free to run any business it chooses, it should not be able to gain an unfair commercial advantage over the surrounding competitors by having the property put into trust for the admitted purpose of marketing a tax advantage," Snyder's deputy legal counsel, Dave Murley, said in a Jan. 7 letter to the U.S. Interior Department.
The Mining Journal reported that Murley urged the government not to place the land in trust for the tribe, a key procedural step.
The tribe already owns a gas station in Baraga County, where its gas prices have been 15 cents to 25 cents cheaper per gallon than other stations, the newspaper reported.
"If the tribe or its members wish to compete, let them do so lawfully and on the same terms as Michigan's other businesses," Murley told the government.
The Keweenaw Bay tribe said it was disappointed by the state's position. Tribal officials said the Baraga gas station has been open for more than 10 years and has competitors in the Baraga-L'Anse area.
"KBIC's goal is to provide permanent jobs and services to the local community while generating the revenue to support essential programs and services for KBIC and the surrounding communities," the tribe said Friday.
The tribe also is proposing a casino in Negaunee Township. The government has given Snyder until June to comment on that plan.