The NY Post's editorial today on Governor Paterson's fecklessness when it comes to enforcing the law against Indian cigarette tax avoidance, captures the essence of this profile in cowardice: "Looks like Gov. Paterson was just blowing smoke when he asked the feds to assess the risk of violence from attempts to collect cigarette taxes from state Indian reservations. At a state Senate hearing last Tuesday, Paterson's chief counsel, Peter Kiernan, made clear that his boss would not pursue the taxes, because the gov -- like his predecessors, George Pataki and Eliot Spitzer -- just doesn't think enforcing the tax law is worth the hassle. Even though his recent request for a federal "threat assessment" suggested that he was preparing to go after the taxes. And even though the courts say the state has every right to collect taxes from cigarette sales to non-Indians."
Can anyone show the man the door quick enough? And the explanation offered is so lame-as well as a bow to the power of violent resistance to the rule of law: "Paterson, it seems, is just too nervous about the prospect of tribal violence to claim what Albany is legally owed. What a dangerous message to send. Among the "costs" of enforcement (i.e., excuses for non-action), Kiernan noted "the psychic harm of forgone opportunity to live in peace with those who are entitled to sovereignty and their interpretation of what that means." Say what? He's talking about tribes that rioted, threw burning tires on the Thruway and fought state troopers, sending many to the hospital, when authorities tried to collect the tax in 1992 and 1997."
And the cost of this pusillanimity continue to rise-along with the taxes and fees that the legislature passed, and the governor signed into law: "Meanwhile, the state and city lose an estimated $1 billion a year in uncollected tax revenues -- even as both face multibillion-dollar budget shortfalls."
We'll give the Post the last word here-and it provides a fitting epitaph to an accidental leader so clearly out of his depth: "Paterson's message? We won't collect taxes from you if you threaten violence. Clearly, he has no right to gripe when critics attack his lack of mettle."