[R-G] Treaty rights win important Iroquois/New York tax fight - battle may be continuing
hunterbadbear at earthlink.net
Thu Oct 7 18:01:59 MDT 2004
Note by Hunter Bear [with a couple of clarifying notes in body of news story
Native determination and treaty rights win important Iroquois/New York tax
fight - battle may be continuing.
The cigarette business at the Shoshone/Bannock Fort Hall res -- which
adjoins Pocatello ID -- continues to do very nicely indeed. Much business
from all kinds of smokers. Heavy flow of good folks. Idaho State Leg,
heavily Republican, has backed away from the so-called Indian cigarette tax
Among related major USSC Native tax cases are Warren Trading Post v Arizona
State Tax Commission  [at Navajo] -- prohibiting the state from
levying and collecting SALES tax on reservation retail sales -- and
Jicarilla [Apache] v Merrion  enabling tribes to collect taxes on
non-Indian entities [including corporations] doing business on the
"The last time the state tried to enforce cigarette and gasoline tax laws on
Indian retailers, protesters in 1997 closed down portions of the [New York]
Thruway in clashes with state police. "
State lets bill on Indian tax expire
By TOM PRECIOUS
News Albany Bureau
ALBANY - The Pataki administration has quietly let die a proposed
regulation imposing the collection of [what amounts to EXCISE] taxes on the
sales of cigarettes and gasoline to non-Indians by tribal retailers. Despite
being ordered to begin the collections under the terms of a 2003 state law,
the state Tax Department has been telling local officials in recent days it
will not enforce the law. The decision by Gov. George E. Pataki is a major
win for Indian retailers, who will continue to enjoy a sizable pricing edge
over non-Indian competitors.
The governor, who once favored the tax collections as a way to level the
playing field between Indian and non-Indian retailers, has in recent years
steadfastly opposed the tax efforts.
Instead, he has said "parity" deals, in which Indian retailers would raise
the prices of cigarettes and gasoline, are a preferred route rather than
trying to force collections on Indian tribes that have vowed to never pay
the taxes; the parity deals, however, have not come to fruition.
The State Legislature last year mandated that Pataki begin collecting what
lawmakers say is hundreds of millions in lost tax revenues through the sales
of tobacco and gasoline on Indian reservations. The tax department wrote
regulations to collect the taxes, but then refused to implement them.
So the Legislature this year pushed through a stronger bill that would give
Pataki less wiggle room in his bid to stop the tax collections. Both
legislative houses overwhelmingly passed the legislation, but the Senate has
yet to send the measure to the governor for him to sign or veto.
The state in 1994 won a U.S. Supreme Court case over the Indian tax
collection effort. State lawmakers estimate the 2004 bill that passed in
June requiring the taxes to be turned over to Albany would raise an
estimated $400 million a year and some estimates are much higher than that.
The Pataki administration has said just a fraction of the Legislature's
estimate would materialize.
The last time the state tried to enforce cigarette and gasoline tax laws on
Indian retailers, protesters in 1997 closed down portions of the Thruway in
clashes with state police.
"The department is aware that these regulations have expired, and we are
reviewing all potential options for addressing this issue through
cooperation, not confrontation," said tax agency spokesman Tom Bergin.
Seneca Nation retailers top, by far, the cigarette sales business by Indians
in New York. Through Internet, mail order and retail shops, Seneca officials
have voluntarily acknowledged that 55 merchants last year sold about 155
million packs of cigarettes. None of them was taxed, and they were able to
undercut non-Indian retailers by at least $1.50 per pack - the state's
Dan Finkle, an organizer with the Fair Application of Cigarette Taxes, a
coalition of retail and health groups, sharply criticized the Pataki
administration for ignoring "the will of the people" by simply not
implementing a law that the Legislature approved. "It seems more like a
dictatorship than a democracy. It just doesn't seem right at all," he said.
Seneca officials could not be reached to comment Wednesday evening.
The Seneca Nation, which earlier this year ran a multimillion-dollar ad
campaign against the tax collection effort, maintains the taxes would
violate the terms of an 1842 treaty between the tribe and the United States.
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR] Micmac /St. Francis Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings. Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunter Bear]
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