Share this article

Open for business
Find out the latest updates from local businesses as our region reopens.
print logo

Setback spurs Senecas to top N.Y. appeal

In the wake of Tuesday's court ruling that dealt the Seneca Nation a setback in its bid to block the state from taxing tobacco sales to non-Indians on its territories, Seneca President Robert Odawi Porter vowed to take the dispute to the state's highest court.

Porter struck a defiant tone over what he called "the state's predatory actions." He reiterated the Senecas' stance that they manufacture their own brands of cigarettes for sale to Indians and non-Indians in reservation stores exempt from state taxation.

"We will continue to block the state's long-standing crusade to confiscate our national wealth, sacrifice native and non-native jobs and interfere with our way of life," Porter said.

He added that the Senecas would seek a review of Tuesday's decision by the state's Court of Appeals.

In a one-page decision, the five-judge Appellate Division of State Supreme Court upheld a June 8 ruling from State Supreme Court Justice Donna M. Siwek and vacated a June 9 temporary restraining order that Associate Justice Jerome C. Gorski later granted to the Seneca Nation.

Siwek had denied the Seneca Nation's bid for a preliminary injunction to prevent the state from collecting $4.35 on each pack of cigarettes sold by any Indian tribes in the state to non-Indians.

"The administration will move expeditiously to collect the taxes," said Josh Vlasto, a spokesman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The full intermediate appellate court reviewed motions filed by Seneca Nation attorney Carol E. Heckman and Assistant State Attorney General Andrew D. Bing. The Rochester court did not hear oral arguments in the latest stage of the tax fight, which dates from 1988.

The full appellate court Tuesday ruled only on the Senecas' attempt to prolong Gorski's temporary restraining order. "For more than 200 years," Porter said, "the Seneca Nation has thwarted New York State's efforts to steal our land, destroy our sovereignty and tax commerce in our territories. In our treaties with the United States, we gave up most of our land to retain the 'free use and enjoyment' to conduct business in our remaining territories free from the state's taxes."

Data provided by state officials to Siwek earlier this month said the state loses at least $110 million a year in tax revenue based on tax-free cigarette sales by Indian businesses.

"New York will never collect a cent of revenue from tobacco sales occurring in our territories, and revenue projections so indicating are foolish," Porter said.

"While the state may be able to embargo, through taxation, premium brands from entering our territory, it cannot tax the brands made in our territory or any of the Six Nations. We will never stop fighting the state's predatory actions."

The Seneca Nation, one of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, boasts of currently operating a $1.1 billion economy with more than 6,300 employees.


There are no comments - be the first to comment