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TRO Lifted in Latest New York Cigarette Tax Decision

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The New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division lifted a temporary restraining order issued June 9 by the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court that prevented New York from collecting taxes on cigarettes sold to non-Indians on sovereign territory.

“The Seneca Nation will of course seek review of this decision by the state Court of Appeals,” said Robert Odawi Porter, Seneca Nation of Indians president.

This latest decision in a back and forth fight over maintaining the rights of the sovereign territories was focused on the Seneca Nation of Indians, while affecting all tribes in New York according to Buffalo Business First.

The Senecas requested the TRO that was effective until today’s court date.

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The ruling gives New York the right to start collecting sales taxes on all tobacco sales from the date the tax went into effect – last September – across New York. State officials expect to generate more than $100 million in annual revenues from the $4.35 per pack tax. Officials are looking to begin collecting the taxes immediately.

“For more than 200 years, 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. New York will never collect a cent of revenue from tobacco sales occurring in our territories, and revenue projections so indicating are foolishness,” Porter said. “Instead, today marks the beginning of a new era in the Nation’s tobacco trade and exercise of our sovereignty. Seneca people are now manufacturing cigarettes in our territories and our Nation’s government will work with them to ensure that our tobacco economy is sustained and regulated.

“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. 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.”

Jim Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, was recently quoted by Indian Country Today Media Network saying, “ultimately the law is the law, and the state has the right to collect these taxes.”

“Today's ruling has not changed the fact that our customers will continue to be able to purchase lower cost cigarette brands manufactured by the Nation in its own factory on Nation lands, like Niagara's, Bishop, Great Country and Cool Harbor. Other cigarette brands not manufactured on Oneida Nation homelands will also be available to our customers as long as current supply in our stores last,” said Mark Emery, director of Media Relations for Oneida Indian Nation.