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Senecas Respond to State Attempt to Tax Sales

By Mark Scott

Cattaraugus Indian Reservation, NY – Seneca Nation of Indians President Barry Snyder Tuesday outlined the nation's response to a law signed by Governor David Paterson that would ban manufacturers from selling unstamped cigarettes to wholesalers who supply reservation stores.

Snyder says tribal councilors are now devising a system to collect tolls of two dollars per car on the Thruway, where it passes through the tribe's Cattaraugus Reservation. Snyder says the state owes the Senecas more than $20 million since it began assessing the state for Thruway use in May 2007.

The council also authorized Snyder to spend as much as one million dollars to retain "emergency response personnel" to help maintain necessary services on their reservations.

"These decisions are not made in haste, nor are they an overreaction," Snyder said. "But given our history that the state twice tried to interfere with our treaty rights to tax-free commerce, the only responsible approach is to protect our people by preparing for the worst."

Paterson signed the tax bill last month. But State Supreme Court Justice Rose Sconiers issued a temporary restraining order halting its enforcement pending a January 27th court hearing.