CATTARAUGUS TERRITORY, N.Y., June 11 /PRNewswire/ -- Seneca Nation of Indians President Barry E. Snyder Sr. today urged Governor Paterson to keep his promise to the Nation regarding rational dialogue on any and all proposals on taxing of Native American tobacco products.
"In light of today's report, which calls for collection of sales tax on our products, we want to remind the governor of his pledge for an ongoing, rational dialogue on this critical issue," President Snyder said. "This, and prior governors, have shown consistency in honoring our sovereign treaty rights despite continued outside pressures to dishonor our unique status. We commend that and have every hope there is no change in that stance."
The NYS State Senate Committee on Investigations and Government Operations today issued a report titled "Executive Refusal: Why the State Has Failed to Collect Cigarette Taxes on Native American Reservations." The report is critical of Governor Paterson for failure to aggressively pursue collection of taxes on sales of cigarettes and other tobacco products sold by the Seneca Nation, independent Seneca businesses, and other Native Americans in New York.
The report follows a series of public hearings, including an October 2009 session where the Nation provided detailed testimony and extensive documentation on its sovereign rights and economic contributions to New York State. The nation, which directly employs more than 3,000 non-Senecas, pumps more than $1 billion annually into the state economy through salaries, vendor payments and taxes on spin-off spending.
Its gaming compact with New York State has generated more than $475 million in exclusivity fees since 2002.
Seneca Tribal Council President Richard E. Nephew joined with Snyder in urging the governor to hold his ground on tax collection, saying the just-issued report reaches conclusions similar to prior State Legislature reports.
"It comes down to lawmakers spending a lot of time and money to say once again that the state is in desperate need of new revenue sources and we are targeted as a source. There's nothing new there. We continue to agree to disagree," Nephew said. "On our side, treaty rights remain as strong as ever and we remain a sovereign nation."
The Seneca leader expressed frustration with the committee's recommendation that the state usurp federal treaty rights.
"They cite self-serving legal precedent to justify having an subservient government collect taxes," he said.
He also labeled the committee's call for the state to revoke recognition of the Poospatuck Tribe, of Long Island, as "hateful and ignorant."
"It's an extreme stretch, to in essence, terminate a tribe's existence to solve a problem. It's illegal and immoral," Nephew said.
Nephew did, however, commend the Senate panel on its recommendation that the Legislature establish a "Native American Affairs Committee" to address a wide range of issues involving the state and sovereign nations within its borders. He also applauded another recommendation that the governor should appoint a Deputy Secretary for Native American Affairs.
"We are very encouraged by what appear to be genuine attempts to open the door to meaningful research, discussion and conversation between our nations and state government. This is something we welcome and embrace," Nephew said.
SOURCE Seneca Nation