May 24/97: Pataki's repeal repealed!


New York Times
May 24, 1997
James Dao

[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.]

ALBANY, N.Y. -- A state supreme court justice issued a temporary restraining order on Friday blocking Gov. George Pataki from repealing a state plan to collect taxes on the sale of gasoline and cigarettes on Indian reservations, as Pataki had announced he would do just a day before.

The order, by Justice Joseph Harris in Albany, buys time for the New York State Association of Convenience Stores to take court action to force the Pataki administration to collect the taxes. The administration was expected to repeal the regulation early next week.

On Thursday, Pataki unexpectedly announced that he would abandon his administration's long-standing efforts to collect the sales taxes in the face of threats of violence by Indians. Though state law requires the collection of such taxes, estimated to be worth $100 million a year, it has been virtually impossible for the state to do so because of the sovereignty of Indian land.

In addition to abandoning his efforts to collect the taxes, Pataki said on Thursday that he would push for legislation allowing Indians to sell tax-free goods to anyone.

The issue has been extraordinarily thorny, with non-Indian convenience store owners arguing that they are being driven out of business by Indian-owned stores that can undercut them by selling tax-free goods. But any state efforts to collect the taxes have been countered by protests and threats of violence by Indians.

That was again the case in recent weeks when Seneca Indians near Buffalo blocked roads after the administration moved to impose its plan to collect sales taxes from wholesalers who provide cigarettes and gasoline to Seneca-owned stores.

Pataki's announcement on Thursday drew a storm of protest from convenience store owners, who accused him of abandoning them for political reasons. "We feel betrayed," said Constance Barrella, president of the convenience store group, which represents 6,000 businesses. "It's sad. For someone who is so pro-business, it's a stab in the back."

Ms. Barrella said her group will be back before Harris on Tuesday to ask him to make the restraining order permanent. It will also ask him to order the state to either begin collecting the taxes on Indian stores or stop collecting them on all other stores. She estimated that sales taxes on cigarettes and gasoline brought in over $1 billion in tax revenues to the state last year.

"There is still a law," she said. "I don't care if he has to put up toll booths at reservations to stop each non-Native American to make sure they pay taxes on the way out. He is required to enforce that law."

While the legal action by the store owners insures that the battle over the regulations will be tied up in the courts for some time, it is also not clear whether Pataki will be able to push a bill through the Legislature legalizing tax-free sales to non-Indians on Indian reservations. Such legislation is expected to face strong opposition in the Republican-controlled state Senate.

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