Liz Benjamin at YNN has been tracking the fight over the collection of taxes on cigarettes sold by Indian scofflaws-and the comments from the Senecas should have Governor Paterson locked and loaded: "Despite two consecutive days of unfavorable court rulings, Gov. David Paterson still believes the state’s new plan to tax cigarettes sold to non-Indians on tribal lands is legal, and will survive pending challenges. But actually collecting those taxes still appears to be a difficult task. Members of several of Indian tribes say they will resort to violence if the state tries to tax them. Thursday, Liz Benjamin spoke to Seneca Nation Tribal Councilor JC Seneca – who says they have no intention of complying with the new state tax, even if they lose in the courts."
Really? Instead of worrying about potential violence, the governor should be issuing the kinds of Make My Day warnings that Dirty Harry gave to assorted miscreants-and there's no doubt that the Senecas fall into that miscreant category. A major problem here, as we have pointed out, is that the governor mistakimgly put the tax cart before the collection horse-and the resulting Indian summer of love left the tax cupboard bare. So now Paterson has nothing to show for his tax increase except shuttered wholesalers and retailers-and continuing Seneca woof tickets.
Is it any wonder that Paterson is frustrated? He has dithered on this issue instead of being forthright from the beginning-and now, as the NY Post reports, he is taken aback by the disingenuousness of the tribes: "The governor said he met with 10 tribal leaders yesterday. "I find it frustrating," Paterson said. "Some of the groups -- not all, but some of them -- only came to the table to negotiate at the last minute because they didn't think that we would actually implement this."
All of this has really gotten Jim Calvin of NYACS really burned-and he's calling on the governor to put the tax increase in abeyance until this issue is resolved. As YNN reports: "Facing a massive budget deficit this year, the Governor and state legislature passed a budget containing dozens of revenue enhancers. Among them, a tax hike on cigarettes, and a plan to collect taxes on those cigarettes sold to non-Indians on tribal lands. Now that it appears the state won’t be getting revenue from the Indian sales – owners of corner stores and mom and pop shops say they’re facing a crippling disadvantage."
And, as NYACS said in its press release: "The New York Association of Convenience Stores today asked Governor Paterson to issue an executive order suspending the 58% tax hike on cigarettes that took effect July 1, in fairness to long-suffering retailers whom state and federal courts have now deprived of the "other side of the bargain" -- the promise level playing field starting September 1. "In light of the court rulings blocking the start of tax collection on Indian sales of cigarettes to non-Indians, the New York Association of Convenience Stores respectfully requests that you temporarily suspend the cigarette excise tax increase that was enacted July 1," wrote NYACS President James Calvin."
We are rapidly reaching a point where push is gonna come to shove-because after the dust settles, the law will be upheld. If at that point insurrection results, it will be up to the governor to bring down the full force of the government on those who wrongly believe that they are above the law.