Speaking outside Buffalo this morning, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state has been moving aggressively to collect taxes on cigarettes sold to Native American tribes — and he raised concerns about the state of Ohio’s potential plans to allow for water withdrawals from Lake Erie.
“We will do whatever we have to do to protect the rights of New Yorkers. Don’t you worry about that,” Cuomo told reporters after holding a ceremonial bill signing for the tougher texting-while-driving ban.
The state recently won a court order to begin collecting sales taxes on cigarettes sold on Indian reservations. The Buffalo News reported this morning that the effort got underway late last month, with the state collecting $1.5 million so far.
The state has struggled to collect the taxes since the late 1990s, with attempts by former Gov. George Pataki to collect the tax leading to violence on the state Thruway.
“I was the attorney general of this state before I was the governor. The law is the law,” Cuomo said. “And we’re going to enforce the law against everyone, everywhere. And you’re not going to threaten the state into not enforcing the law.”
As for Ohio, Cuomo indicated his aides plan to talk with Ohio officials after state lawmakers there passed a controversial measure that would let businesses withdraw up to 5 million gallons of water a day from Lake Erie. The measure awaits Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s signature.
Cuomo said he has concerns, saying it could lead to potential legal action. He noted that New York is among the states in the Great Lakes Compact aimed at conserving the lakes.
“There’s potential legal action,” Cuomo said in a response to a reporter’s question about whether the issue could spark a lawsuit. “We don’t want to get in a dispute with another state if can avoid it, and we’re going to have conversations because it is a situation that causes us concern.”