Cuomo Vows To Collect Indian Cigarette Taxes


Gov. Andrew Cuomo, during a question-and-answer session today with reporters following his appearance at Daemen College in Amherst, said “threats” wouldn’t stop the state from collecting taxes from the sale of cigarettes on Indian reservations.

The state and several Indian tribes are currently in a court battle over the provision of collecting the taxes from sale of cigarettes and tobacco products to non-tribal citizens. The plan was put into motion by former Gov. David Paterson last year after the state Legislature approved the measure.

Here’s what the governor said:

“We are now going forward with the case. Everybody has to pay taxes, nobody likes to pay taxes. Nobody’s come up to me saying I really enjoy paying taxes and we’re going to collect taxes from everyone. There are no exceptions. And threats are not going to stop the government from doing its job and we’re not going to be intimidated.”

The Seneca Nation of Indians on Thursday released a statement decrying the governor’s budget for including the tax revenue as part of his overall cash-flow plan.

The history of collecting taxes from the tribes is fraught with conflict. When the state last attempted to follow through with such a plan in 1997, tribal members blocked traffic on the Interstate and set fire to tires.


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  1. I think that the simplest way to collect the various faxes that we are trying to collect from the Indian nations is to simply set up at the entrances or exits with reservations inspection stations, similar to the ones that are border with Canada or Mexico. Inspect each car for violations or untaxed items and collect the tax at the border from the purchasers. I am sure that it would not be long before the traffic jams entering and exiting the reservation would force the Indian tribes to pay the taxes due at the point of purchase.
    Seems simple to me.

  2. Cuomo seems to forget that our governments signed something called “Treaties” with the sovereign nations of American Indians. While I don’t know the particular wordings of the treaty with the Senecas it’s quite possible that we have no more “right” to tell them what to do about taxes than we have the “right” to tell the Russians what to do about taxes.

    Unfortunately for the Indians they thought they could trust our governments (state and federal) to stand by their words. They should have known better.

    Larry’s idea might be workable because it would recognize the reservations as independent countries within our borders. We could deal with cross border smuggling in the same highly efficient way we’ve dealt with our border with Mexico where no one crosses without being stopped and going through the proper checkpoints and procedures.


    – MJM