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NY Taxes Cigs on Native American Reserves

June 22, 2010
Native American Sovereignty Violated by Cigarette Tax

Please don't take this offensively, I just thought it comically suited the situation.

Albany is in shambles. The New York State legislature is making week-by-week emergency budgets since it missed its fiscal year budget deadline on April 1st. The weekly emergency bills are intended to keep things operational, and they will eventually comprise the final budget

(WGRZ – Buffalo NY news).

These weekly emergency budgets are proposed by the governor, and cannot be changed or amended once proposed. Legislators can only cast a yes or no vote. If the majority votes “no,” then the state government will shut down – meaning no state employees will get paid, and publicly funded services will cease to operate. Presumably, this would cause chaos – and provides a large incentive for legislators to just say yes regardless of objections they may have to the bills. This forceable incentive gives the state executive (the unpopular Governor Patterson) unfair and potentially unconstitutional legislative powers.

The most recent emergency bill passed contains some serious tax increases on cigarettes. No serious news there really. NY is already known for the highest cigarette taxes in the country. However, this law goes further to impose enforcement on a sovereign nation (American Law Library).

The law (which will be enforced starting September 1st), forces Native American store owners on tribal territory to tax non-Native customers (NY1). This is like asking Connecticut store owners to tax New Yorker customers and pass that money along to New York. Or even asking Canada to do the same.

“Gee, thanks for doing that work for us. Now, if you could just pass along that money you so kindly collected.”

It’s completely illegal. If it’s not, it’s at least criminal in the vernacular sense because it is plain unfair. But it is actually illegal and should be brought to court for a couple reasons:

  1. Congress is reserved the right “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes” (US Constitution, Article I, Section 8), states cannot regulate commerce with Native American tribes.
  2. The law forces a cost of reorganization and enforcement upon the sovereign tribes. When considering court cases such as New York v United States and Printz v United States we see that the Supreme Court does not believe that the federal government can force administrative action onto states in order to further the government’s agenda. The same rule should apply to state attempts to coerce Native tribes.

I guess my word count is high enough already, so I’ll stop here. Bottom line, the powers that be are taking advantage of a bad situation in Albany to make illegal law at the expense of the Native American tribes. As a Senecan representative said, “This path the governor’s taking is very detrimental to our relationship” (Democrat and Chronicle – NY).

For more info on the NY budget as it stands today, see this NY Post article.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 22, 2010 12:44 pm

    So I propose a grassroots movement among New Yorkers: let’s begin purchasing our tobacco sales-tax free over the Internet, and for the huge sum saved donate half of it to NYS-based Indian nations.

  2. June 23, 2010 8:14 am

    here’s another goodie from NYT on this subject. it was stuck on this article as the final paragraph:

    The bills also include what are known as “sweeps,” where lawmakers in effect take money out of accounts that aren’t technically part of the state’s budget. For example, the legislation will transfer $65 million from the New York Power Authority into the state’s general fund. ‘

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