Friday, May 27, 2011
I'm Making The Trip Back To Albany
I've been invited to be on The Capitol Pressroom with Susan Arbetter again. Ms. Arbetter told me she has learned more about our battle with the state on my two appearances than she has learned in all her years of covering the issue with other guests. As such, she is having me back on Thursday, June 2nd. The show will be following a hearing on the 1st in Buffalo that may or may not clear the way for the New York State to prohibit its licensed wholesalers from selling unstamped/untaxed cigarettes to Native wholesalers and retailers on Native lands. This move will undoubtedly put several state licensed wholesalers out of business and cause Native retailers to shift from what is now between 80 to 90% of their sales to 100% being Native brands. The state will essentially be prohibiting their licensed wholesalers from carrying Native brands because they cannot bear the state's tax stamp so the distribution of those brands will return back to Native distributors and wholesalers. The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance knows their weak legal arguments stop well short of allowing them to interfere with the Native to Native trade of a Native produced product. This will likely be the dominant theme of the conversation on The Capitol Pressroom.
Adding to the drama is the call from two state senators from both major parties for the tax department to put in writing their intentions regarding Native brands. Their phone calls to the taxation department got them a response from the department officials that this falls into a "gray area". The senators stated clearly in a letter to Thomas Mattox, the NYSDTF Commissioner that they not only didn't agree with that assessment but that it was unacceptable. They told the commissioner that the state had no authority to infringe on Native to Native commerce and that doing so would be harmful the Native people and the entire regions in which they live. The senators insisted that New Yorkers and their elected representatives had a right to to know what the department was up to and that their position should be put in writing so that their intentions would be clearly known.
The letter was dated May 16, 2011 and as yet the NYSDTF has failed to respond. It is amazing that a plan by the state that has literally been in the works since 1988 still leaves the state's tax officials stumped to answer such basic questions. Between a potential court ruling on June 1st and, perhaps, a response from the NYSDTF to some fairly adamant senators, Thursday's Capitol Pressroom should be a good one. The show is carried throughout the state on NPR stations so check your local listings for the airing times in your area.