You have to give Governor Paterson credit for one thing-innovation; no one has thought of a new way to not enforce the tax laws against Indian cigarette retailers until he came along and somehow decided that this was really a federal issue: "Gov. David Paterson is concerned that members of the stat’s Indian tribes may engage in “violence and civil unrest” if he attempts to tax cigarettes sold at reservation smoke shops.In a letter dated Sept. 23, Paterson asked three of the state’s top federal prosecutors to help him assess the possibility of violent demonstrations if the state begins collecting its $2.75 per-pack tax on cigarettes sold at tribal shops.Paterson also asked the Justice Department for an “operational commitment to help mitigate any disturbances that might occur.”
How pathetic! Come on, David, New York State has the wherewithal to solve this problem-and the resources needed to combat the threat, or the reality, of Indian violence. This is all classic buck passing-and with Paterson it's kinda like an Olympic sport; but the need to once and for all let violence-prone law breakers know who's in charge is long over due: "Gov. David Paterson is concerned that members of the state’s Indian tribes may engage in “violence and civil unrest” if he attempts to tax cigarettes sold at reservation smoke shops.In a letter dated Sept. 23, Paterson asked three of the state’s top federal prosecutors to help him assess the possibility of violent demonstrations if the state begins collecting its $2.75 per-pack tax on cigarettes sold at tribal shops.Paterson also asked the Justice Department for an “operational commitment to help mitigate any disturbances that might occur.”
He might as well have requested some help in just doing his job-since this tax avoidance could be as much as $700 million a year: "Since then, the reservation shops have become among the biggest cigarette dealers in the state, selling more than 300 million packs annually. Some reservations are now also home to cigarette factories churning out native brands sold throughout the U.S.But with the state desperate for new revenue, Paterson is signaling he is giving the issue new thought."
But listen to the timidity expressed: "In his Sept. 23 letter, the governor told the U.S. attorneys for Western New York, Northern New York and Long Island that while his intent was to continue negotiating with the tribes, he wished to assess the possibility “of a repeat of the violent demonstrations that occurred in 1997” if the state were to act without an agreement.“I would be grateful if you would please review this matter and provide me with your assessment as to the likelihood of violence and civil unrest,” he wrote."
Please! As one upstate opponent of this foot dragging points out, you don't refuse to enforce the law out of fear that some will violently oppose: "If violent reactions are expected, it makes sense to prepare a counterforce to deal with it – including being ready to call in the U.S. National Guard, said attorney David Vickers, president of the Upstate Citizens for Equality,But the taxes should be collected regardless of what reaction is anticipated, he said.“I think that if public policy is created and pursued or not based on whether a segment of the population may get violent or not, you have an extremely weak public policy maker on your hands,” Vickers said. “I am astounded that we have had four governors who are afraid to do their job.”
But don't expect any action soon from the dithering governor-he's shucking and ducking, as Tom Precious of the Buffalo News reports: "Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, said that it is “fair” for the public to ask, “How much money, if any, can be reasonably expected from the collection of those taxes? And is there a plan to move forward consistent with the law?” Paterson, in response, dismissed some of the “bloated projections” involving how much the state could reap if the taxes were brought in. Lawmakers have said $1 billion is lost each year by Albany to Indian sales of tax-free cigarettes. “No state has collected more than $75 million from Indians,” Paterson said...The issue of collecting taxes from the Indians is a law enforcement issue, and very much a federal issue,” Paterson said."
But no state is tax free central like our is: "Advocates of the tax-collection effort, though, have said New York is a major tax-free haven for Indian retailers, especially those on the Seneca Nation reservations, because of the state’s relatively high tobacco tax rate and large population base." And it is the state's tax payers and convenience store owners that are victimized by leaders without spines.
But we would caution, that the call for the federal cavalry is not the optimistic sign of imminent action that the NY Post envisioned in its editorial yesterday: "Gov. Paterson has asked the US Justice Department to back him up if any at tempt to finally collect unpaid cigarette taxes at Indian reservations is met -- as it has been before -- with "violence and civil unrest." That's welcome news on two fronts: It suggests that the governor is prepared to correct this outrageous flouting of state law, as we've long urged, and that he understands the violent resistance that could result."
Nah. It's simply a dilatory measure; and real action awaits another chief executive with the cojones to simply enforce the law. Paterson should just stop pretending-and if he wants too do something, just do it without asking permission from the grown ups.