Jun 26/97: Court of Appeal to decide on NY taxes


The justice says it's up to the state's highest court to decide whether the governor must try to collect taxes on Indian reservation sales.

The Post-Standard
June 26, 1997
Erik Kriss - Albany Bureau

[SISIS note: The following mainstream news article is provided for reference only, as an example of how mainstream media treats indigenous resistance to genocide. It may contain biased and distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context.]

Gov. George Pataki can continue his hands-off policy toward state taxes on Indian reservation sales until the state's highest court decides the issue, a state Supreme Court judge in Albany ruled Wednesday.

Judge Joseph Harris, who last month temporarily barred Pataki from dropping regulations that require the tax collections, said he didn't have the authority to continue that order.

Lawyers viewed the ruling as procedural, because Pataki hadn't been following Harris' temporary order.

"This just preserves what was going on anyway," said Joseph Heath, a Syracuse lawyer who represented a number of federally recognized traditional Indian chiefs in their negotiations with the state.

Pataki dropped efforts to tax reservation cigarette and gasoline sales to non-Indians last month. The governor submitted legislation that would make all reservation cigarette and gasoline sales tax-free, but state lawmakers have not taken up the bill.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1994 upheld the state's right to collect the taxes, and off-reservation merchants won court battles since then to compel the state to collect them.

Pataki offered to exempt Indian nations from the collections in return for reservation merchants raising their prices closer to those charged by their off-reservation competitors. Six of New York's nine Indian nations, including the Onondaga, Cayuga and Oneida nations, accepted the offer and signed tax compacts with Pataki in April.

The Appellate Division has ruled 3-2 that the state must either tax reservation gasoline and cigarette sales to non-Indians or drop gasoline and cigarette taxes statewide. The Court of Appeals is scheduled to rule on the state's appeal of that decision.

Back to SIS