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State will collect tobacco tax, Cuomo insists

The state intends to collect taxes on cigarette sales to non-Native Americans on Indian reservations, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Thursday.

Cuomo spoke to reporters about an hour after conferring briefly with Seneca Nation President Robert Odawi Porter.

The governor was in Jamestown for the first of a series of public appearances across the state to promote his reform agenda.

"I want to make sure we are collecting all the money for the state that we're entitled to," Cuomo said. "I understand Mr. Porter's point, and I hope we can work it through."

Cuomo said he had a "cursory, cordial conversation" with Porter, who was among more than 300 people attending the governor's speech. "I'm looking forward to additional conversations," Cuomo added.

Cuomo said the relationship between the state and Indian leaders "has not been working well.

"We have legal rights. I intend to enforce the legal rights," Cuomo said.

Does this mean the state intends to move forward with plans to end tax-free cigarette sales by Indian retailers?

"I intend to collect all of the revenues that the state is entitled to collect," Cuomo replied, noting that the state is facing a $10 billion shortfall in the coming year.

In a statement, Porter said: "The governor's statement is not a surprise, given the condition of the state's finances. The open question is what Indian policy the governor will pursue that will avoid conflict and promote the economic betterment of Western New York."

Last week, Seneca Nation leaders lamented a lack of outreach by Cuomo's administration to the tribe at a time when relations have hit an "all-time low." Some Seneca officials have been pressing the state to negotiate instead of pushing ahead with collection efforts.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com