Our View: State needs to enforce cigarette law

The state Senate Standing Committee on Investigations and Government Operations on Tuesday is holding a hearing in New York City on the state’s failure to collect taxes on sales ofcheap cigarettes sold by Indian-owned retailers to non-Indian customers.
Despite clear laws on the books for year, Indian-owned retail outlets, such as the convenience stores in Union Springs and Seneca Falls owned by the Cayuga Indian Nation of New York, have refused to collect the taxes, claiming their sovereign status exempts them from doing so. This argument, of course, falls flat because no one is attempting to deny these retailers from selling untaxed products to members of their tribes – it applies only to non-Indian customers.

The bigger problem, though, has been the failure of multiple governors’ administrations to enforce the law.

Fortunately, with concerns about untaxed cigarettes rapidly growing in the New York City region, the push to resolve this problem is now gaining some much-needed bipartisan support in Albany. At a time when the state is in a budget crisis created by severe revenue shortfalls, the failure to collect these taxes is costing an estimated $65 million this year, according to the state Office of the Budget.

And that’s likely a conservative figure, because it’s not taking into account the revenues that could come from non-Indian retailer sales if they had a fair competitive environment in this state.

All of this information will once again be repeated at Tuesday’s hearing. Our hope is that Gov. David Paterson is paying attention, and that he’ll finally find the courage – and common sense – to do what is right.

Last week, the Associated Press reported that Paterson has asked federal judicial department leaders in New York to assess the threat of violence and civil unrest should the state decide to begin enforcing its laws.

No matter what information he gathers in response to that request, Paterson needs to start collecting the taxes. New York state taxpayers cannot afford to have their elected officials intimidated to enforce laws.

source: http://www.auburnpub.com

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